Thank you Colonel [Charles] Holsworth. I guess this is what they call just in time delivery. We were held up by fog in Washington, which some of you may consider a very normal event. [Laughter] But the kind of fog we have down there usually doesn't hold up the Air Force. It did this morning, unfortunately.
It's a great pleasure to be here. Colonel Holsworth, I hear it's been quite a year for you as the ROA's elected national president. I understand you've been hobnobbing with a number of other elected national presidents including one I know well, a former National Guardsman named George W. Bush.
It's like the Reserve—you always seem to be in the thick of the action.
It's quite an audience. It's good to see you here this morning and I bring you greetings from my boss, Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, and from our Commander in Chief, President Bush.
Special thanks to Admiral [James M.] Loy [recently retired Commandant of the Coast Guard] who has provided our Coast Guardsmen such fine leadership. In a few minutes he's going to be receiving well-deserved recognition in the form of the Minute Man Award.
Now President Bush received a similar award in January, which was an occasion for some of that aforementioned hobnobbing, so Jim, you too will be hobnobbing in very good company. And Colonel Holsworth, let me commend you once again on your obvious ability to pick outstanding leaders.
I might add you don't do too badly either when it comes to picking historically appropriate conference sites. America has always been blessed with extraordinary leaders and dedicated patriots during our nation's most challenging hours. The great city of Philadelphia—where our nation's independence was declared and where our Constitution was written, attended by titans of the ages—attests to this fact.
One of those titans was a citizen of Philadelphia, a man who played a unique role in the founding of our new republic. That man, of course, was Benjamin Franklin. He was a man of remarkable diversity: Ben Franklin the scientist; Ben Franklin the philosopher; Ben Franklin the Founding Father; and yes, Ben Franklin, the citizen soldier, a proud tradition that each of you now upholds.
During the French and Indian War, Franklin left his job as leader of the Pennsylvania Assembly to don a uniform in the Pennsylvania Militia. Like today's reservists, Colonel Benjamin Franklin left hearth and home not only to organize Pennsylvania's frontier defense but to command a construction battalion as well, so I suppose we have another Ben Franklin: Ben Franklin, Red Horse engineer.
In typical fashion this new officer approached his military career with a zeal and intellect characteristic of so many of his other endeavors. Colonel Franklin led his men by appealing to both their reason and their self interest, an approach that came in particularly handy one day when a chaplain of Franklin's company came to him with a vexing problem. The men, it seemed, were not particularly interested in the chaplain's sermons or their prayers.
Now it was a fact that upon enlistment each man was promised a daily ration of four ounces of rum, so Franklin suggested to the chaplain, "Reverend, it may be below the dignity of your profession to act as a steward of the rum, but I suggest that if you were to deal it out, and only just after prayers, you would have the men all about you." [Laughter]
Well, after recovering from this ungodly advice, the sheer novelty of this idea, the chaplain went ahead and followed Colonel Franklin's suggestions. And need I tell you that history records attendance at the chaplain's prayers improved at once? [Laughter] History doesn't tell us whether the men's attention to the chaplain's sermons showed a similar improvement.
Since I can't promise you any similar recompense this morning, I will try, however, to appeal to your reason by talking about the Reserves and appeal to your self interest by trying to do so briefly.
Last Tuesday, June 11th, we put in place the final piece of limestone to complete the reconstruction of the damaged outer wall of the Pentagon, a ceremony that bore witness to the remarkable patriots in hard hats who were rebuilding that great building in record time, a building that the terrorists tried to destroy nine months ago.
Over the course of those nine months, our country's men and women in uniform have given their own answer to those terrorists who sought only to kill and to destroy. And as our armed forces have conducted their missions bravely and with remarkable skill, they have made tremendous progress. They have defeated a vicious and repressive regime in Afghanistan and, in the process, not only depriving the terrorists of one of their principal sanctuaries, but offering freedom another new birth—so that the people of Afghanistan, a country that has lost a million lives to war in the last decade, can go back to their homes and schools and have a chance for what we have here in America. I'm happy to report in fact that 1.2 million are recorded as having gone back already in just the first five months of this year. That was the UN's target for the entire year of 2002. They've doubled the target now to two million. That's the kind of progress that our armed forces have made possible.
And in this noble work another very positive thing has happened. Americans have come to appreciate more fully just how vital our Guard and Reserve are to our country's security.
America will always remember those who responded first on September 11th. In the thick of the action from the very beginning were our nation's Guardsmen and Reservists. New York Guard and Reserve members took to the streets of lower Manhattan, helping emergency units and standing guard. Guard and Reserve members from Maryland, Virginia and D.C. went to the Pentagon immediately, before they got the official call to duty. And they were among the first on the scene in Pennsylvania.
By noon on September 12th more than 6,000 Guardsmen and Reservists had answered our country's call. We would see these men and women on duty across the country providing medical and technical assistance, securing our coasts and our borders and our airports, patrolling our streets, and flying combat air patrols to protect America's skies.
Soon after September 11th, as Admiral Loy can well attest, the Coast Guard began its largest mobilization since World War II. Today more than 85,000 service members from the reserve components are taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom, the overseas war on terrorism, and in what we call Operation Noble Eagle to protect the skies over the United States.
They are providing 50 percent of the force protection for our bases and installations around the world and here at home. They are providing 25 percent of our warfighting support and 25 percent of command and control, communications, intelligence, and mobilization support that are critical to the overall effort. Over 77,000 people, including about 1,500 members of the Coast Guard, are mobilized under Title 10 authority and over 9,000 Guard members provided security at our nation's airports. That mission of airport protection has now been successfully transferred to the new Transportation Security Authority, but support from the Reserve remains vital in guarding critical infrastructure and our borders. Meanwhile we are looking hard for ways in which we can reduce the demands on our people while providing the same level of security.
No one knows better than this audience how diverse is the support from reserve components across the entire spectrum of operations. They are flying combat air patrols in Afghanistan and conducting vital and dangerous civil affairs missions. They're keeping the peace in Bosnia, providing logistics support in Kosovo, flying dangerous missions over Iraq in Operation Northern Watch and Southern Watch, protecting Patriot missile batteries in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and securing ports in the Middle East. And I might mention a local unit, the 193rd Special Operations wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard out of Harrisburg, which has conducted Commando Solo missions in Afghanistan—making possible broadcasts that helped to protect our troops and inform the Afghan people.
In all these operations, we have seen truly remarkable achievements by our citizen soldiers. Men and women who willingly give up the comforts of home to answer their country's call.
One colonel in the Army Reserve recently returned from Afghanistan and reflected on how stark the transition can be for those sent to the front. "Some were students a few weeks ago," he said, "sitting in a classroom reading Chaucer, and all of a sudden they're in some place called Kabul or Kandahar where they have to worry about whether they'll get a hot meal, where there are no showers, where toilet paper is a luxury and every square of toilet paper counts." But, he said, they're glad to be there. Gratified by the children they see who are going to school for the very first time thanks to our efforts.
I recently visited our troops in the Philippines and conditions there also lack the comforts of home. There I met Reservists in Zamboanga and Basilan in the southern Philippines. Everywhere we went we heard of the gratitude of the Philippine people for the American assistance of the armed forces—assistance that is producing a climate of security for the first time in years, and improving in important and dramatic ways the daily life of ordinary people whose lives had previously been disrupted by terrorists.
Improving the daily lives of people. That is a familiar theme when you talk about our reserve forces, and it applies on both fronts of this war. Here on the homefront people were able to sleep once again after September 11th when they heard the reassuring sound of fighter jets overhead—the first time in my memory when people in Washington weren't complaining about aircraft noise. [Laughter] They went about their business feeling safer knowing men and women in uniform were guarding bridges and tunnels and train stations and power plants and airports.
On the front in Afghanistan, along with removing the Taliban regime, our Guard and Reserve forces helped provide humanitarian assistance that saved many lives. Between October 7th when the campaign began and December 21st of last year when we were able to turn the relief mission over to people on the ground, our forces dropped 2.4 million individual humanitarian daily rations.
Now those of you who have eaten MREs [Meals Ready to Eat] as they're more popularly known, may question that term "humanitarian." [Laughter] Nonetheless, it is real food. It is life-saving food for the people who need it.
Let me mention another example. This one is from the Army Reserve Forward Tactical Surgical Team from Salinas, California. While treating American battle casualties they also treated an Afghan shepherd who had been severely wounded in a landmine blast that also killed 20 of his sheep. Not only did the doctors and nurses treat the man's injuries, they collected enough money voluntarily to help him buy 20 more sheep. That is the sort of heart you find all the time in America's citizen soldiers. They are willing to put their careers on hold and say goodbye to their families when their nation calls.
Your nation has called and your nation will continue to call and you have responded magnificently.
The truth is we simply cannot do our job without the jobs that you do. That is why we are committed to addressing some of the challenges in the mobilization system revealed after last September. We faced an unprecedented national tragedy and characteristically we got an unprecedented response from our reserve components.
In handling the transition to active duty for some of our people we know some things could have gone smoother. That's a typical Washington understatement. We are looking at the entire mobilization and demobilization process for the Reserve and National Guard. We have heard your concerns and we are working to address them.
It is still too early to know the long-term effects of the increased deployments on the Guard and Reserve but we are watching those, too. We know that we can't keep people on active duty for extended periods without severe impacts. It's a challenge for them, it's a challenge for their families, it's a challenge for employers. It's a dilemma, by the way, that has been with us since the founding of our country.
When the winds of war began to stir in March of 1776 John Adams wrote to a Boston minister, "We must all be soldiers." A few weeks later a young apprentice in Adams' law office was drawn to the cause and told Adams that he wanted to enlist. For him, Adams had different guidance. "Young man," he said, "we cannot all be soldiers." [Laughter]
Thankfully there are many who can and who do. The willingness of the members of our Guard and Reserve to serve has been remarkable and heartwarming. I would add that employer support so far has been strong. Hundreds of employers have extended continued medical care, have made up salary differences, established support mechanisms for families, and taken extraordinary steps to show corporate support for reservists.
The Defense Department is dedicated to focusing significant efforts and energy to strengthening and encouraging that employer support, and we are looking hard at our long-term requirements.
Secretary Rumsfeld has been pressing people not to simply call up extra people to do extra tasks, but also to identify where there are things that we're doing that we don't need to do any more so that we can meet the new demands not simply by adding people but by reducing unnecessary missions.
We are committed to getting this right, and while we face the enormous challenge of winning the global war on terrorism we must also address the equally large challenge of preparing our forces for the challenges in the wars of the next decade. We cannot afford to wait for another Pearl Harbor or another September 11th, whether on the ground or in the air or in cyber space. Our ability to deter and defeat aggression will continue to demand unparalleled capabilities second to no one, from technology to decision-making.
We are in the process of a major transformation of our military capabilities and our reserve components are in the thick of this transformation process as well.
In Afghanistan today brave Special Forces on the ground have taken literally 19th Century horse cavalry, combined it with 50 year old B-52 bombers and using modern satellite communications have produced what is truly a 21st Century military capability. Asked at one of his press conferences what he had in mind by reintroducing the horse cavalry back into modern warfare, Secretary Rumsfeld joked, "It's all part of our transformation plans." [Laughter]
But indeed, it is because transformation isn't just about new things and new equipment. It is often more importantly about using old things in new ways and natural results of creative innovation. And some of the greatest military transformations of the 20th Century were the proud product of American military innovation. The development of amphibious warfare, the development of aircraft carriers, the introduction of nuclear powered submarines and a stealth aircraft to name just a few.
Our fundamental thinking today as we approach transformation is that we want to encourage all those willing to think about war of the future and their role in it, whether Active or Reserve. We want to encourage those who look forward so that our country can continue to lean forward when needed. We will look for this sense of innovation from the reserve components. Transformation must encompass not only technology. Indeed, more important than just technology are organization and doctrine and leadership and how we manage our force, including how we manage our total force—how we bring reservists onto active duty and use their skills to provide us with the balanced military flexibility that we need along with a balance of the real world commitments that our Reserve Components have to meet.
We're looking for better ways to integrate our reserve forces into the total force. We will emphasize balancing skill areas. We will emphasize how we use our people, whether for 39 days a year or 365. We are committed to reducing mobilization by how we balance our commitments throughout the total force. We are committed to a prudent and judicious use of our Guard and Reserve. And we are interested in what you have to say in all aspects of this transformation.
How we manage our Reserve Components will determine how well we as a nation are prepared to fight, today and tomorrow. And make no mistake, this war on terrorism is far from over. As the President has said, it will be a long, hard and difficult war.
In recent days we have had reminders that there are still very dangerous people on the loose seeking to do us harm. A recent newspaper article reported on this from from Suleiman Abu Ghaith, who appeared in some of the videotapes with Osama bin Laden. "What is in the waiting for the Americans," he warned, "will not be inferior to what the United States has already gone through. Let America be prepared to fasten its seatbelts because," he said, "we are going to surprise it in a place where it is not expecting."
Jose Padilla, an American terrorist, was recently transferred to us from the Justice Department, to the Department of Defense, and offers us another reminder that the threat is real. Terrorists here and abroad will not stop until they have obtained the most destructive weapons they can. But there is hope and that hope is represented right here in this room. It's in the mountains of Afghanistan. It's in the skies of America. That hope resides in those who are willing to put themselves in harm's way to defend this great nation.
Benjamin Franklin knew that the success of our country depended on the character of our people. "Only a virtuous people," he said, "are capable of freedom."
I have long believed that America's greatest power, more than our vast resources, more than the beauty we see all around us, more than our great melting pot and our military might, America's greatest power is what we stand for.
Now we face another hour of great testing. Our liberty and our way of life is in peril. And we remind ourselves once more who we are, what we stand for and what we are fighting for.
We are fighting for a nation, a system of government that holds out as Abraham Lincoln once said, "a great promise to all the people of the world for all time." As long as America's citizen soldiers will answer their country's call I believe that promise will be safe.
Thank you and God bless you. God bless all the men and women who defend our nation so faithfully and well, and God bless America. [Applause.]