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Cohen Addresses Iwakuni Marines, Sailors

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

IWAKUNI, Japan, April 10, 1997 – Defense Secretary William Cohen's visit here April 9 was brief, but his message to U.S. troops was loud and clear.

"You are the muscle behind America's military capability," Cohen told about 300 Marines and a scattering of sailors at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni. "You are the muscle behind our willpower to exercise influence for the good throughout the globe."

During a stop, the defense secretary met with U.S. military leaders and viewed an aircraft display before addressing troops assembled in an aircraft hangar. Cohen was on his way from Tokyo to Seoul, South Korea, as part of a week-long tour of the Asian-Pacific region.

U.S. forces forward-deployed in Asia play a vital role in providing stability in the region, Cohen said. "You are what makes America the superpower that it is today. You are the tip of the spear."

Along with being warriors safeguarding regional peace and security, U.S. military men and women are also American diplomats, Cohen said. "Everything you do reflects upon the United States."

Cohen praised the Marines and sailors for their commitment to serve America. "I know it's a great hardship being deployed for long periods of time," he said. "It's a hardship on you and on your families. I just want you to know that we in the United States are indebted for everything you do for us."

Forward-deployed forces like the 100,000 service members currently stationed in Asia deter would-be aggressors, Cohen said. History has shown the importance of maintaining strong forces, even during periods of peace.

Whenever people feel peace is at hand, Cohen said, they tend to think there is no need to maintain a vigorous, dynamic military. This was demonstrated after World Wars I and II. "Every time we have dropped our guard, there have been aggressors who have tried to take advantage of it," Cohen said.

Cohen said it is his job as secretary of defense to remind the American people of the need to maintain a strong military capability. He said his job also includes recruiting and retaining quality people, taking care of their quality of life needs and modernizing the force so the United States keeps its superpower status.

Cohen related a story about former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to demonstrate America's role in world affairs. "At a meeting with an American journalist, Churchill said, 'America. America. A great and proud country. Like a some strong workhorse pulling the rest of the world up out of the slough of despair.' Then Churchill turned to the journalist and said, "But will it stay the course? Will it stay the course?'"

That happened 50 years ago, Cohen said. "After 50 years, we can answer Churchill's question. America has stayed the course, because that's our responsibility. We have a great country and we're going to keep it. We have a great alliance and we're going to maintain it.

"Thanks to all of you who are here today and others who are serving in our military, we will stay the course because that's our destiny. Thanks to all of the sacrifice you make day in and day out, America continues to exercise its influence for good throughout the world."

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