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Rumsfeld: AF Academy Grads Are Bulwark Against Terrorism

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 29, 2002 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today told Air Force Academy graduates that they begin their careers during wartime and with the military embarked upon unprecedented transformation.

The country is now waging war against global terrorism, Rumsfeld noted to graduates in his remarks prepared for delivery at the academy commencement ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"Like Pearl Harbor some six decades ago, the United States has been attacked," Rumsfeld said. "And once again, our freedom is in the hands of brave men and women."

He said the new Air Force officers' military service "will help to determine that America survives in this new and dangerous century. You are what stands between us and an enemy that, as President Bush has said, cannot be appeased, cannot be ignored, and must not be allowed to win."

The secretary saluted the new officers for their military service, noting the work they've chosen is difficult -- and dangerous.

"Already, some of your comrades have given their lives in the war on terror," he remarked, adding that the myriad sacrifices - sometimes ultimate -- made by service members pay for America's way of life.

"Freedom must be defended," Rumsfeld said, "and you know that if we are to remain a free people, then some among us must be willing to stand up and put their lives on the line to preserve it."

To win the war against global terrorism and potential future wars, Rumsfeld said, the U.S. military is in the midst of unprecedented transformation. The new Air Force officers, he noted, will have an ample role in this endeavor.

The purpose of military transformation is "to stay ahead of those who wish us ill," Rumsfeld remarked. The graduates, he noted, are "the most important element in our transformation."

Transformation involves leveraging technology to develop new weapons like the Joint Direct Attack Munition, Rumsfeld explained. "Sometimes it is also about transforming old weapons for the challenges of a new century," like air combat controllers on horseback in Afghanistan using Global Positioning System devices to direct air attacks.

The secretary remarked that the graduates are entering commissioned service with fresh perspectives. He challenged them to "question why" and "be bold."

"Dare to innovate," he said. "That culture will do more to transform the way we think and fight and win than any weapon system ever could."

The new Air Force officers, Rumsfeld noted, are charged to "protect our way of life -- the freedom and dreams of millions of people who want nothing more than to be able to pursue their peaceful lives."

The graduates are "dedicated, determined and devoted," Rumsfeld remarked. "America -- and indeed the world -- is truly fortunate to have you."

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