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Gates Tours Backup Ship for Satellite Shot

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

U.S. NAVAL STATION PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii, Feb. 21, 2008 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today toured the USS Russell, one of the three ships used for yesterday’s shooting of the dying reconnaissance satellite orbiting Earth.

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Sailors salute Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates as he disembarks the USS Russell in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Feb. 21, 2008. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jerry Morrison, USAF
  

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The ship’s homeport is here, and ship officials said the crew went through the same drills as the USS Lake Erie, which fired the actual shot that hit the satellite. The Russell did not, however, load a missile or leave the port, the officials said.

Gates viewed some of the drills the crew went through to prepare for the shooting, he said, talking to the press shortly after the tour.

“(It is) Just another reminder, as with other ships I’ve visited, (of) … the incredible quality and dedication and skill of the men and women in uniform that carry out these tasks,” Gates said.

The secretary thanked the people of Hawaii for their support to local servicemembers and their families. “Without your help and support, everything would be a lot more difficult for them. So we really appreciate the local support,” Gates said.

The secretary also commended defense and Navy officials for the successful shootdown. “Finally I would just like to congratulate (Air Force) General (Kevin) Chilton and those in strategic command, as well as the Navy for what appears to be a very successful operation yesterday,” Gates said. Chilton is commander of U.S. Strategic Command.

The secretary also toured the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which is responsible for searching for, recovering and identifying remains of Americans unaccounted for from all conflicts from World War II through the Persian Gulf War.

The secretary left here today for Australia, after a brief visit with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commander of U.S. Pacific Command last evening. The secretary dined with Navy Adms. Mike Mullen and Timothy J. Keating, the Joint Chiefs chairman and PACOM commander respectively, after arriving from Washington yesterday.

Australia is the second stop in a nine-day tour that includes Indonesia, India and Turkey.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Robert M. Gates talks with Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Weston, left, commanding officer of the USS Russell, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Feb. 21, 2008. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jerry Morrison  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Robert M. Gates receives a tour of the engineering room of the USS Russell from Navy Lt. Courtney Minetree, chief engineer, while aboard the ship in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Feb. 21, 2008. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jerry Morrison, USAF   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Robert M. Gates looks at artifacts while touring the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command while on Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, Feb. 21, 2008. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jerry Morrison, USAF   
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