Rumsfeld: At ease, thank you, nice to see you all. Admiral (Timothy) Keating and Captain (Michael) Jacobsen. Where's Command Master Chief (Scott) Williams?
Williams: Right here, sir.
Rumsfeld: How are you doing?
Williams: Good, sir.
Rumsfeld: Good, nice to see you.
It’s hot, I’m not going to talk long, I suspect they had you standing here a little too long before I got here so I appreciate your doing it. I’m not here to give a speech really. I’m here to say thank you to each one of you for what you do for our country. We appreciate it.
I look down at the deck of this ship and I told someone I was traveling with that when I was in the Navy they had wooden decks and we used to have to (inaudible) them but those days are gone I suppose.
Chief, the reason I was looking for you is, my father was in the Navy and in World War II he went through that 90-day wonder program where they take a civilian, he was an old man, he was 40 years old which was way past draft age. Volunteered, and they put you through 90 days and then suddenly you’re out in the Navy. You’re supposed to be knowing what you’re doing and people would say to him how could you go aboard an aircraft carrier after only 90 days in the Navy when you didn’t know all that much and he’d think about it and think about it and he finally said, Chief Petty Officers. That’s how they did it. They took that during World War II and these folks came in from all across the country who had no experience and ended up serving our country well.
We are in a war that’s very different. There aren’t navies and armies and air forces at the moment that we’re competing with but they’re very well trained people, well financed people -- terrorists who make it their business to kill innocent men, women and children. And our task is to recognize that it’s not possible to defend against that, the only thing we can do is to go find them and to stop them.
That is exactly what the president ordered be done in Afghanistan to stop the Taliban and Al Qaeda from using that country as a terrorist training ground and to see that the terrorists were either killed or captured and that we then put pressure all across the globe on people who are financing and assisting and helping the terrorist. It’s particularly important today, because of the fact that while we had 3,000 of our friends and colleagues killed in the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, if the terrorist organizations get their hands on weapons of mass destruction the problem will not be 3,000 people killed but tens of thousands of people killed. So there’s an urgency to what you’re doing and to what we’re trying to do.
I know you folks are here, it’s a different part of the world, it’s a different climate, it’s a different country, it’s a different set of problems from what you face at home and I know you often have separations from families and friends and for that we thank you. They sacrifice too.
I do want you to know that the American people recognize what you’re doing and we appreciate what you’re doing and we thank you for what you’re doing. God bless you all.
Now, how long were you out here? When I was in the Navy they used to get us out there about an hour before anything ever happened. How long were you all out here?
Troops: About a half hour.
Rumsfeld: How long? About a half-hour? The skipper of this ship is a thrill seeker! The ones I used to have always dragged us out about an hour. Now the one thing I want to say about your skipper is that after I leave would one of you all tell him that I’m Secretary of Defense instead of Secretary of the Navy? He said, "Did I say that?"
Did he say that?
Troops: (A mix of yes and no answers).
Rumsfeld: He never said it! It's a mixed -- maybe I misheard it. It could have been -- it’s late in the day for me.
Jacobsen: I’m sure you’re dying to meet some of these great sailors.
Rumsfeld. I am indeed. Thank you.
Jacobsen: Let's have a round of applause for the Secretary of Defense and then step forward and say hello.
- END -