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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Town Hall with U.S. Troops in Korea

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
June 01, 2003

(Town hall meeting with U.S. troops at Camp Greaves, Republic of Korea.  Also participating was Army Maj. Gen. John Wood, commander of the 2nd Infantry Division)

 

     Wood:  Good afternoon, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen, warriors of the Second Infantry Division, specifically the Currahees of the First Battalion 506th Infantry and the Marines of the Third Marine Expeditionary Force.  Can I have a hooah?

 

(Hooah!)

 

     How about a Semper Fi?

 

(Hooah!)

 

     All right.  Come on, we can do better than that.  All right.  It's really a distinct pleasure, sir, to welcome you to this camp, to Camp Greaves and the Second Infantry Division and this audience of soldiers and Marines proudly serving in Korea and training today to fight tonight if necessary.  Today's audience of proud Marines and soldiers is awfully appropriate for this division as some of you may know the Second Infantry Division was formed in 1917 in Belleau Wood, France, and at that time this great division consisted of one brigade of U.S. Army Infantry, one brigade of artillery, various support elements, and one brigade of marines.  Born joint. 

 

     In fact, this division was actually commanded twice by Marine Corps generals:  Major General C.A. Doyen and Major General Lejeune.  You recognize that name.  This marks the only time in U.S. military history when a Marine Corp general commanded an Army division.  All part of our proud history. 

 

     The Second Infantry Division has a long history serving here on freedom's frontier, standing shoulder to shoulder with our Republic of Korea allies, defending freedom and democracy on the Korean Peninsula.  We proudly serve here, just a few short miles from one of the largest hostile armies in the world.  This fact keeps us focused on our mission every day.  We stand trained and ready to fight tonight if necessary.  Our presence, the strength of our alliance, our joint readiness, keeps the enemy to the north deterred and peace and democracy in the Republic of Korea secure. 

 

     Like all of you, our distinguished guest this afternoon has made a career of dedicated service to our nation.  Dr. Wolfowitz was unanimously confirmed by the Senate as the 28th Deputy Secretary of Defense in February 2001.  This marks his third tour in the Pentagon.  Prior to becoming the Deputy Secretary he served as the dean and professor of International Relations at the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at John Hopkins University.  From 89-93, Dr. Wolfowitz served as under secretary of Defense for Policy under then-Secretary of Defense Cheney where he had a major responsibility for the reshaping of strategy and force posture at the end of the cold war.  During the Reagan administration he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia where he earned the reputation as a highly popular and effective ambassador, a tough negotiator on behalf of American interests and a public advocate of political openness and democratic values.  Prior to his three years as Ambassador to Indonesia, he served for three and a half years as assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs where he was in charge of U.S. relations with more than 20 countries.  He has taught at Yale and Johns Hopkins and was a George F. Kennan Professor of National Security at the National War College.  Secretary Wolfowitz, we are honored you chose to visit our soldiers and Marines today, and without further delay, let's give a warm welcome to our Deputy Secretary of Defense, Dr. Paul Wolfowitz.

 

     Wolfowitz:  Thank you, General Wood.  The honor is distinctly mine.  It's a great pleasure to be here.  I just learned from the general and maybe you just learned this was a division that was born joint so let's hear you Army guys do a real loud "Semper Fi."  Come on, Semper Fi.

 

("Semper Fi!", laughter.)

 

     There we go.  Once more, come on.

 

(Semper Fi!)

 

     Okay.  Now, all you Marines, a big loud "Hooah"

 

(Hooah!)

 

     Come on everybody, a "hooah," okay?  Show 'em.  Hooah!

 

(Hooah!)

 

     All right.  Okay.  A little military history that might interest some of you, especially the Marines, by the way.  I didn’t know the Second Division first saw combat at Belleau Wood.  I learned a couple of years ago and it amazed me Belleau Wood was the battle where the Marines first got the concept of amphibious warfare and that struck me as a little odd and it may strike you as a little odd.  But they thought about the fact that they were attacking across open wheat fields into woods with rocks behind them and they said if we can do this successfully, we ought to be able to attack islands successfully and if you go back through the history of the development of the amphibious doctrine in 1920’s and 1930’s which is one of the great military innovations of the twentieth century it all had its origin in land warfare in Belleau Wood and what I didn’t know, it was the Second Infantry Division so, congratulations.

 

     I’m here in Korea to update my own knowledge about the situation in this country and particularly about the defense issues we have with Korea and tomorrow I’ll be meeting with a whole group of Korean officials including the president, the new president of this country, but I’m here this afternoon really most of all to say thank you to all of you.  You’re on the front lines of freedom up here and the country is grateful for your service.  The President and Secretary of Defense have asked me to send a message to you that we appreciate what you are doing; it is fantastic.  The whole country got a glimpse of what the American fighting men and women can do in the recent war in Iraq and I guess a lot of you had the chance, or maybe you had a few minutes a day, I think you don’t get too many minutes off, had a few minutes a day to see what the whole country saw.  You knew already what the country learned in the course of that war in Iraq, which is that we have the best men and women anywhere in the world serving in our Armed Forces.  They’re brave, they’re professional, they fight joint and they’re probably the most humane warriors any country has ever fielded.  We won a war in Iraq in spectacular time because of that and the same time that we were winning that war in Iraq we were preventing a war here in Korea. 

 

     We’ve been doing that for 50 years.  It takes skill, it takes dedication, it takes professionalism and I know it means long, long months away from your families for all of you and that is a huge sacrifice.  But it’s made a difference.  It made a huge difference.  General Wood’s father, I think, was here at the end of the Korean War.  I made my first visit up to the demilitarized zone in 1983, which I guess tells you I’m getting a little old.  At that time, if you’d asked me would we still be here 20 years later.  I think I would have said yes, we will.  But, if you’d asked me, will South Korea be a thriving democracy 20 years from now?  Will South Korea have the 11th largest GNP in the world?  I would have said that sounds like you’re dreaming a little bit, but that’s what’s happened.  With the protections that you and your comrades have provided over the years with the dedication and commitment of your South Korean colleagues, we’ve enabled our allies to build one of the strongest democracies in the world and a lot of people said it couldn’t be done.  Twenty years ago, there were people who thought somehow those weird folks up north would have the better of it.  It’s pretty clear now that time is on our side and not on their side.  But the only way we’ll keep that edge is if you keep your edge.  If you keep focused on your mission.

 

     I just want to say for the President, Secretary of Defense, most of all, from myself personally, I thank you for your service, I thank you for your dedication, keep it up, the country depends on you, both our countries depend on you and I’m glad to be here this afternoon to say that.  With that I’d be happy to try to answer questions if you have them or if they’re really difficult, I’ll ask General Wood to help me out.  Who wants to be the first?

 

     Q:  Good afternoon, sir.  My name is Specialist Reyes from Charlie Company, First and 506th Infantry.  I’m from Buffalo, New York, my question is --

 

     Wolfowitz:  I’m from Ithaca, New York, so it’s nearby.  Good to hear it.

 

     Q:  Thanks.  With the recent war in Iraq, what were some of the biggest lessons learned do you think?

 

     Wolfowitz:  Oh, boy.  We learned a lot of lessons in Iraq.  I think one of the lessons we really learned was the advantage of speed.  We moved with a speed that the enemy didn’t expect and we moved in ways that the enemy didn’t expect.  We’re not quite sure what was in the strange mind of Saddam Hussein but we’re pretty certain that he believed the American way of war was you bomb for weeks and weeks before you even put a soldier on the ground.  We took him by surprise.  We had the first soldiers crossing the border in Kuwait before the real bombing even began.  And I think that speed, and the speed of the advance, the speed with which we got to Baghdad, the speed with which we went into Baghdad meant that a lot of things that were designed to happen never happened.  Those oil fields weren’t destroyed.  There weren’t huge clouds of hydrogen sulfide that would have poisoned everybody up north.  There was no huge flow of refugees that he thought was going to destabilize the region.  There’s no food crisis in Iraq.  There’s no mass of epidemics in Iraq.  There was none of that horrible urban street fighting that we were afraid of under the nickname Fortress Baghdad.  And, perhaps most important of all, although we still don’t know all the reasons, chemical and biological weapons were never used.  Maybe because the enemy never had time.  We had a meeting of combatant commanders about a year ago in which one of -- a four-star commander said, “Speed kills.  It kills the enemy.”

 

     And I think that is a major lesson.  The one other lesson which we’ve been learning over and over and over again, and you represent it right here, is that jointness counts in combat.  The ability to work together as an integrated Army and Marine Corps - Air Force - Navy - Coast Guard team has made all the difference in the world and it’s astonished the world and frankly even those of us who thought we knew something have been astonished.  But, finally, it’s the quality of the American service men and service women that counts most of all.

 

     Q:  Good afternoon, sir, Lance Corporal Schooly, Parks, Oklahoma, my question is about the Montgomery GI Bill, if the service member chooses not to use it, can they pass it down to another family member or to their dependents, sir?

 

     Wolfowitz:  That’s one of the hard ones that I could ask General Wood.  What I’m going to have to do is take that home and get -- write you a letter back with the answer.  I honestly don’t know.

 

     Q:  Good afternoon, sir, I’m Senior Airman Shaun Curzalack.  I’m from Cooperstown, New York.  My question is how do you see air power in the event of a war here in Korea?

 

     Wolfowitz:  In Korea?  I think it’s one of our great advantages and I think the North Koreans know it and I think it’s what keeps their heads down.  But it works in ways it didn’t work before -- much, much more effective because it’s not only that with long range air power we can attack targets deep in the enemy rear, but we have the ability now and that’s where jointness really makes a difference.  To bring air power and ground forces together with an effectiveness that is simply stunning.  In fact, one of the things we’d like to urge our South Korean colleagues to do is to have more of that capability in their own forces.  You saw it in Afghanistan, where literally a handful of American soldiers riding horseback were able to bring air power to bear on an enemy and change the course of a whole war and similarly we saw that applied in Iraq and I think the North Koreans understand that and it would be one of our big advantages.  But not air power by itself.  It’s air power integrated as part of a joint team.

 

     Q:  Good afternoon, sir, my name is Sow Num from South Korea.  What do you think about the KATUSA program?  In it young Korean soldiers complete their military service in United States Army units, sir?

 

     Wolfowitz:  I’m going to ask you to answer the question after I do.  I think it’s terrific.  Everything I know about it just seems like a perfect model of cooperation with one of our closest allies in the world, and I was reminded in the briefing earlier this afternoon that it had its origins in the worst moments of the Korean war when we needed all the help we could get and we turned to Koreans to help us and it’s continuing to this day and I’m told that some of the very best soldiers in the Korean Army are signed up as KATUSAs so I think that is a great tribute.  You can just give me a short answer.  Do you think it is a good thing or a bad thing?

 

     Q:  Good.

 

     Wolfowitz:  You like it?

 

     Q:  For me, sir, to be KATUSA is a good opportunity for work with other country and in the other culture, sir.

 

     Wolfowitz:  That’s great.  Well, I’m sure we’re learning other cultures by having you with us, so thank you.

 

     Q:  Good afternoon, sir, I’m Major Al Stall, I’m the executive officer of this (Inaudible.) body of infantrymen that stand before you.

 

     Wolfowitz:  Hooah.  (Laughing.)

 

     Q:  Sir, I hail from the great state of Kentucky.  Sir, my question is, what major choices about force structure roles and missions are you facing in the near future?

 

     Wolfowitz:  One of the things that I’ll be talking about tomorrow with Korean officials and we’ve been talking about for some months now with General LaPorte is how best to structure our forces in Korea and indeed worldwide to take advantage of the new opportunities that are presented by our new capabilities.  But also to be able to be more flexible because in the wake of September 11th we’ve come to realize that the threats are much less predictable than we used to think in the past.  If I had ever gone to the Congress in June of 2001 and said we needed money to base forces in Karshi-Kanabad, the first thing is we’d all have to get our maps out and discover that that’s in Uzbekistan and having discovered that they’d say what on earth do you want forces there for?  And, if I had said well because we might have to fight in Afghanistan, I think we would’ve all agreed we were crazy.  Three months later, four months later, we were doing exactly that and I think we’ve been taken to places in the world we never expected to go. 

 

     We need to have the flexibility to deploy rapidly and fortunately we have that flexibility in part because of new technology and in part because of the enormous expansion of the doctrine of jointness.  So that has application here in Korea as well, I think and, you know, we have an enemy for all its crudeness that keeps adapting, keeps looking for our weaknesses to try to exploit them.  We have to keep adapting and looking for their weak -- fixing our weaknesses and exploiting the enemy’s.  So, we have agreed, we agreed last December when the Korean Minister of Defense was in Washington to have a study on the future forces in Korea.  We affirmed the importance of that study when President Bush met with President Roh in Washington last month and we’re going to be proceeding with that.  We haven’t come to any conclusions on it yet but we believe there are real opportunities for both U.S. forces and Korean forces to be more efficient, more effective, more deadly and better deterring.  Not that we aren’t good right now but with that enemy up there you want to be as good as you possibly can. 

 

     Q:  Good afternoon, sir, my name is Corporal Richardson from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  My question is, Marines currently serve a twelve-month deployment tour overseas.  Is there any talk in the near future of changing that to a 24-month deployment, sir?

 

     Wolfowitz:  I haven’t heard it.  Let me just say that.  I think -- I don’t want to get in trouble with the Commandant if he’s thinking of any changes like that, but let me put it this way, in a general way.  There is a deep recognition at the highest levels of the Pentagon both uniform and civilian that one of the greatest sacrifices you make when you’re in uniform are long deployments away from home and in fact this deployment in Korea for Army folks, for most of you, is a 12-month unaccompanied tour, is a real hardship, it’s a real sacrifice.  We understand it.  I think the country to some extent is coming to understand it.  Pushing those limits is something we really don’t want to do.  We’re trying to figure out ways where people can get more time at home with their families and have deployments be less extended.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be exceptions, but I’d be very surprised if we were talking about anything of that kind.

 

     Q:  All right, sir.  Afternoon, sir.

 

     Wolfowitz:  Thank you.

 

     Q:  PFC Kahns, sir, Delta Company, First and 506th Infantry Regiment, from Brooklyn, New York.  My question is, sir, some people we have the strongest military because of high technology other people say because of our quality people, what do you think, sir?

 

     Wolfowitz:  I think it’s people most of all.  During the Persian Gulf War 12 years ago I think it was commented correctly that smart weapons aren’t any good without smart people.  And I think we saw in both Afghanistan and Iraq smart people is important but brave people is important, dedicated and committed people is important, we have all of those qualities in the men and women of our Armed Forces.  As I said, and you may just be starting to appreciate it, I think thanks in part to those embedded journalists we had with us in Iraq the whole country came to understand the quality of the men and women serving us and I think we’re having a love affair with the Armed Forces now and it’s a good thing -- it’s a great thing actually.

 

     Q:  Thank you, sir.

 

     Wolfowitz:  Thank you, all.

 

     Q:  Sir, Staff Sergeant Wolf, Delta Company, I’m from Honolulu, Hawaii.  My question to you is, we say that in the Army and Marines, the NCOs form the backbone of our organizations, how can NCOs best contribute to the military?

 

     Wolfowitz:  I think it is true that our NCOs are the backbone and I’ve heard a number of stories over the years where foreign officers, in one case a very senior Russian General, Soviet General, came to the United States some 15 or 20 years ago, he expected to find good officers, he was astonished that he found good NCOs as well.  It just didn’t exist in the Soviet Army.  I think maybe that’s part of the reason they’re in the shape they’re in.  It’s a special talent, it’s special experience, it’s special leadership and I think we couldn’t possibly do it without the skills that are developed in that NCO corps.  Do I have any advice?  I guess it’s just keep focused on your mission.  I think that is what’s getting the job done and we’re trying to make sure as best we can that we’re giving the kinds of benefits to the senior enlisted ranks that can make staying in the military for a full career attractive because I know there are a lot of civilian firms that are eager to get their hands on our good capable senior NCOs as well.

 

     Q:  Sir, we know you’re busy, but I think we have time for one more question if we could.

 

     Wolfowitz:  Okay.

 

     Q:  Good afternoon, sir, I’m Private Hayes, HAC first and 506th, sir.  My question is, what will you tell Secretary Rumsfeld about your visit to U.S. Second Infantry Division, sir?

 

     Wolfowitz:  Well, I know one thing I’m going to tell him is you guys are an imposing crew and I wouldn’t want to be the North Koreans going up against you.

 

     (Crowd cheers.)

 

     Wolfowitz:  And I’m going to tell him that I gave you a great big thank you from him and he’s going to say well why only one?  So, I’m going to give you another one right now.  Thank you all and hooah!

 

     (Applause.)

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