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Cohen Praises Troops for Southern Watch Efforts

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD THE USS CONSTELLATION, Persian Gulf, Oct. 26, 1999 – Defense Secretary William S. Cohen praised the sailors and Marines aboard this aircraft carrier for their part in containing Saddam Hussein.

Cohen visited the ship Oct. 23 off the coast of Kuwait. The "Conny" had finished Operation Southern Watch sorties in the morning and was off for a port visit in the United Arab Emirates. The Constellation is based in San Diego.

"While you are up here, you can take great satisfaction in the job you are doing," Cohen told the sailors and Marines assembled on the hangar deck for the ceremony.

Cohen told them he knew what they were going through. "I know about the 140-degree decks," he said. "I know you have to be away from your families." He said they are making a sacrifice, but that people in America know about their sacrifice and were trying to make life a little better for them.

"I was out here last year and visited the [aircraft carrier] USS Abraham Lincoln," he said. "They told me to 'show them the money.'"

Congress and the president did show them the money, he said. They recognized that no matter how good the equipment the U.S. military has, people are the key to American success. "Take a look at how good you are," Cohen said. "In Kosovo, we flew 34,000 missions with only two planes lost, and both pilots were rescued. This is an incredible record."

Cohen said the U.S. military's example helps shape the strategic environment. He said when allies see the American military at work, they want to emulate the example.

When "powers that wish us ill" see the American military and its capabilities, they think twice about tangling with such a potent foe. "You are the cop on a beat," he said. "Things are quiet when you're around."

Cohen re-enlisted 11 sailors when he arrived aboard and cut a cake marking the ship's 38th birthday. Following the speech he walked into the crowd of sailors, shook hands and spoke with many.

"They thanked me for the pay raise," he said later. "They said that was really important to them. They felt that that was recognition on part of Congress and thanked me for pushing for that."

Cohen said the sailors and Marines generally had positive things to say. "They were pleased with their mission and the way they handled their duties," he said. "It's hard duty, and they were looking forward to going home. They have two stops on the way back to San Diego with one of them in Australia. Their mood was very upbeat."

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