On the 60th annual Armed Forces day, I want to express how privileged I feel to be the secretary of defense for a military that has not only shown raw courage on the battlefield, but has time and again demonstrated ingenuity and flexibility in complex and unpredictable environments.
As we draw down our troop levels in Iraq, the media spotlight may wander, but the responsibilities resting on each individual servicemember will grow in what will be a carefully synchronized and at times delicate transfer of security responsibility. In Afghanistan, in keeping with the president’s new strategy, thousands more U.S. troops will confront a ruthless enemy and the ambiguities of a country traumatized by decades of war. Our troops will be challenged elsewhere around the world – whether supplying forces in theater, or responding to natural disasters, piracy, or facing a range of other threats and missions.
The Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns demand an ever-changing set of capabilities and competencies. And yet, every day, I am awed by your ability to transform and succeed in a mission that at various stages has called on you not just to be warriors, but also scholars, teachers, policemen, farmers, bankers, engineers, social workers, and many more – often all at the same time.
Patrick Henry, one of the patriots of the American Revolution, wrote more than two centuries ago: “The battle . . . is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave . . .” To that I would add the resourceful, the intelligent, the agile. I am thankful for your willingness to serve, and have the utmost faith in your ability to face the difficult and dangerous missions that lie ahead. Serving with you is the greatest honor of my life.