Wolfowitz Salutes Armed Forces for Humanitarian, War Efforts
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
MCLEAN, Virginia, Apr. 14, 2005 U.S. servicemembers deserve high praise for helping tsunami victims and liberating Afghans and Iraqis from brutal regimes, the Pentagon's No. 2 civilian official said April 13 at a business association dinner here.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, slated to assume management of the World Bank on June 1, told about 900 attendees at the Northern Virginia Technology Council's spring dinner he will miss working with troops and other Defense Department leaders.
"I do have one big regret about moving" to the World Bank, Wolfowitz acknowledged, noting he'd be "leaving a job that brings me into daily contact with some of the bravest, most dedicated, and most capable people in the world - the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States."
Wolfowitz added he'd "been very lucky to be part of an outstanding civilian military leadership team, led by a truly remarkable secretary of defense (Donald H. Rumsfeld)."
The American people, Wolfowitz said, "can be enormously proud" of how their government leaders have addressed U.S. security concerns in the years following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
However, the deputy defense secretary said he reserves "a special place in my heart" for the men and women of the U.S. military and the civil servants who support them.
Wolfowitz recalled that when he visited tsunami-devastated areas in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, he saw U.S. servicemembers "bringing relief to those who were suffering." The humanitarian efforts, he noted, "probably saved tens of thousands" of lives in tsunami-stricken countries.
Those efforts have helped to sustain Indonesia's new democracy, Wolfowitz noted, led by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a former general and a graduate of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
American tsunami aid provided to Indonesia, Wolfowitz pointed out, has given Yudhoyono's government "a chance to succeed" and "will help build the infrastructure so important to democracy."
Wolfowitz said he also has seen U.S. servicemembers deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq performing their duties with "resourcefulness, bravery and compassion."
American troops' valor, Wolfowitz noted, helped to liberate 50 million mostly Muslim people in Afghanistan and Iraq "from two of the worst tyrannies in modern times." And, in doing so, he said, the U.S. armed forces "have helped to make this country more secure."
Today's U.S. servicemembers also display confidence performing their missions using "extraordinarily complex technology," Wolfowitz noted. America's military features "a whole army of 'techies,'" he said, who are "impressively comfortable applying advanced technology in new ways" on the battlefield.
Uniformed members of the "joystick generation," Wolfowitz pointed out, "are the true drivers" of the military's transformation" that was directed by President Bush four years ago. Technology-savvy servicemembers deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq are using state-of-the-art digital systems linked by satellite to communicate, Wolfowitz said, and Predator unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor enemy movements. As a result, "commanders have a unprecedented, integrated picture of the battlefield, all in real time," he said. This revolution in military affairs, he pointed out, "has helped us to take sanctuaries away from terrorists."
Wolfowitz recalled once meeting a young Air Force woman originally trained as an F-15 fighter pilot. She now operates Predator UAVs, he said, from "an office far from the field of battle."
The pilot's new skills indicate "real culture change" within DoD and demonstrate "the revolutionary impact" of applying new technology in military affairs, Wolfowitz said.
However, all the new technology used by the U.S. armed forces, Wolfowitz said, "would count for nothing were it not for the character, and the skill, and the commitment of those who serve our nation with such courage and selflessness."