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Mullen Salutes Servicemembers’ Success at Awards Dinner

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2008 – U.S. troops engaged in the global war on terrorism are doing “an exceptionally hard job exceptionally well,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs’ annual awards dinner held here yesterday.

“I believe our future is tied, as it always must be, to the young people who are in the fight right now,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said. Mullen received the institute’s Jackson award, named after the late U.S. Sen. Henry M. Jackson, a staunch supporter of America’s friendship with Israel. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates received the Jackson award last year.

Senior U.S. civilian and military leaders are focused on “driving hard for final success in Iraq [and] turning it around in Afghanistan,” Mullen said.

At the same time, defense leaders remain committed to supporting the military families “of those who have borne the battle,” Mullen said, noting he is working to provide more time at home for troops between duty assignments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The U.S. military also is focused on providing “a lifetime of care to the wounded and the families of the fallen,” he said.

Today’s generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen want “leaders who will listen” and “challenging assignments of value, learning and building on the satisfaction that they’ve achieved by doing an exceptionally hard job exceptionally well,” the chairman said.

Servicemembers who have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq also want to lead, Mullen said, noting they’ve been shaped by experiences different from those encountered during his service as a young officer during the Vietnam War and the subsequent military cutbacks in the 1970s.

Today’s troops have achieved great success in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mullen said, and they “are truly appreciated and trusted by the American public.”

As the war in Iraq winds down, U.S. servicemembers will experience “the prospect of a long, tough duty ahead, as we turn our full attention to the hills of Afghanistan, as we must,” Mullen said.

The war against terror isn’t over, Mullen said, citing the Nov. 26 terrorist attacks on Mumbai, India. The four-star admiral recently returned from a visit to Pakistan – believed to be where the Mumbai attackers made their plans -- where he encouraged senior Pakistani leaders to take a firmer role in confronting militant extremists operating in their country.

“We are working to prevent Nov. 26 from becoming a tipping point towards chaos in the region, by confronting once again a common enemy,” Mullen said. “Both India and Pakistan are increasingly targeted by terror, just as we have been, and the futures of these nations are bonded, just as our future is with theirs.”

Investigations of the Mumbai attacks indicate a new level of terrorist sophistication, Mullen said, noting the attackers employed global positioning systems and satellite phones while committing mayhem that killed more than 200 people.

“This is an evil in the sight of our world, and the only way to face it is to face it with united determination, with every aspect of our influence and power, and with all possible urgency,” Mullen said. “This wasn’t just an attack on Indians, or Americans or Brits or even Jews; it was, rather, an attack on all of us who love the sacred dignity of human life.”

As the war against terrorism continues, it’s time to prepare young military leaders for greater responsibilities and higher rank as part of “their turn at the tiller of history, for they’ve earned it,” Mullen said.

Military-support groups, such as JINSA, help foster closer civilian understanding of national security matters “and unite us in common purpose, thought and deed,” he said.

Earlier in the evening, Mullen saluted six servicemembers who received the institute’s 2008 Grateful Nation award for outstanding service during the war on terrorism. The awardees are:

-- Army Sgt. Monica L. Brown;

-- Marine Staff Sgt. Phillip J. Anderson;

-- Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Douglas Day;

-- Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Eric S. Bernstein;

-- Air Force Master Sgt. Edward A. Tillman III; and

-- Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary J. Rhyner.

The six military awardees are “very, very special people,” Mullen said. They were selected by their service branches.

“They represent the best military that I have been associated with in the over four decades that I’ve had the privilege to serve,” Mullen said of the awardees.

Brown, a combat medic who earned the Silver Star for gallantry during action against enemy forces in Afghanistan in 2007, said she feels honored to receive the Grateful Nation award.

“There’s a lot of history behind this organization,” Brown said of JINSA’s long-time support on behalf of servicemembers and the U.S. military. Therefore, being a recipient of the institute’s Grateful Nation award “means a lot to me,” she added.

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Navy Adm. Mike Mullen

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