The Wolfpack Howls Welcome to Cohen
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea, Sept. 21, 2000 The Wolfpack was howling here as Defense Secretary William S. Cohen addressed members of the 8th Fighter Wing and Army troops from local Patriot batteries.
Cohen stopped to speak with the airmen and soldiers during his visit to Korea. Morale at the forward-deployed air base seemed sky high with the troops howling out their unit mottos and slogans. U.S. Forces Korea Commander Army Gen. Thomas Schwartz accompanied Cohen.
Visibly energized by the upbeat and enthusiastic troops, Cohen thanked them for the sacrifices they make for freedom. He said their presence in Korea helps keep the region stable, and that serves American interests. The 8th Fighter Wing flies F-16s in support of U.N. Command and U.S. Forces Korea.
Cohen told the service members that they were not only warriors, but diplomats. “When you come over here and show your professionalism, dedication and expertise you are assuring our allies,” he said. “You are also showing our potential adversaries that you are not someone they want to mess with.”
He said the United States needs to keep attracting people like the troops in the Kunsan hangar. He told the airmen and soldiers that they all could do better working for private industry. “You have the skills, knowledge and proven leadership abilities that CEOs of companies are looking for,” he said.
He said the military is goal-driven and service members know how to reach goals. Still, the country needs these warriors, so keeping and retaining quality service members hinges on their quality of life. He said he has been working to improve pay, retirement, housing and medical care. Cohen received a hearty cheer when he mentioned retirement reform enacted last year that reinstated the pre-1986 system of 50 percent retirement pay after 20 years.
He received another when he spoke about eliminating out-of- pocket expenses for service members living off base. He received another cheer when he mentioned DoD's repair efforts on TRICARE, the military health plan. He said DoD would come up with a mechanism to make transferring between TRICARE regions easier.
He said the country owes service members a higher quality of life both because they deserve it and because it increases readiness.
At the end of the talk, Cohen and Schwartz mixed with the service members. He then flew to Tokyo for meetings with Japanese defense leaders.