LIEUTENANT GENERAL JOHN D. JOHNSON: OK, take your seats. How's everybody doing?
OK. We have the great privilege today to have our Deputy Secretary of Defense with us to talk to us, Dr. Ashton Carter.
I've got just three things to tell you about him real quick before we begin.
Number one, as the Deputy Secretary of Defense, you know that he's the number two guy in charge of our military.
Number two, he's from Pennsylvania. Anybody out there from Pennsylvania?
LT. GEN. JOHNSON: That's what I thought, Sir.
All right, number three, as a former assistant to the SecDef -- previous SecDef, Dr. Perry -- he's been at Pyongyang, North Korea. Hoo-ah?
LT. GEN. JOHNSON: And I guess there's a fourth one. The fourth one is, in his previous job as the undersecretary, he was fighting for us the whole way. So MRAPs, UAVs, other ISR platforms, he's responsible for getting that for us in the fight.
So a big Humphreys welcome to our Deputy Secretary of Defense, hoo-ah.
AUDIENCE: Hoo-ah! (Applause.)
DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASHTON B. CARTER: OK. Well, thank you. Thanks very much, General Johnson.
General Thurman's here. He and I have spent the day together.
It's terrific to be here with you. I'll be really brief, and then I look forward to meeting each and every one of you and giving you a coin and just getting a chance to see your face.
I just want to -- the main thing I want to say to each and every one of you, from the Secretary of Defense, Secretary Panetta, from me, from the entire leadership of the Department is: Thank you. Thanks for what you're doing out here. Means an enormous amount to our country. Means an enormous amount to this region. Means an enormous amount to the world.
And so I want you to go home tonight after this and talk to whomever's close to you, a parent, kids, spouse, good friend, whatever, and say that, "Today I was thanked for what I do." And please do that for me.
And what you've got to understand is that we kind of share something together, I feel, and I'm sure you feel -- each and every one of you feels as well, which is it's a great feeling to wake up every morning and be part of something that's bigger than yourself. And that's what we do.
And in fact it's even bigger than the great nation that we all serve, because the world still looks to our country, to the United States for much of its security. We provide that. And that's a big deal.
People take it for granted. You look out, you know, around here, the community around here. You go to any American community and people are waking up every morning and they're living their lives and they're raising their families and they're taking care of their parents and they're going to school and they're going to work and they're doing all these things.
And when you then look at -- turn on your television and look at Syria or someplace where there is no security, you realize how fortunate it is to have security. You provide that to people.
I always say security is like oxygen. If you -- when you have it, you don't pay any attention to it. But when you don't have it, it's all you think about.
So it is the most important thing to this world and to our societies, and you deliver that. And believe me, if they didn't have it, that's all they'd think about. And sometimes you -- you know, we all say to ourselves, “Geez, we feel underappreciated. We feel taken for granted.”
We're not. I think most people understand that we provide to them the most basic thing you can have in life, without which none of the other things that are -- that make life worth living are possible.
So, you do that. Go home and tell your family you were thanked today by the leadership of the Department for what you do.
You, right here, right now, in this part of the world, are at the fulcrum of the strategic change that we in the United States are making, that the rest of the world is experiencing, from a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan -- which is not over yet, because we're still fighting hard in Afghanistan and we will be for another few years -- but you can see that that era is coming to an end.
And so we are trying to turn the energies of this great Department and its capabilities as the greatest military on Earth, to the challenges that will define our future and the world's future in security.
Many of those challenges are out here. So when the President and the Secretary of Defense asked all of us -- General Thurman was right in the middle of this last winter -- asked all of us in the senior leadership to look up from the foxhole, so to speak, of Iraq and Afghanistan that we have been in and we have been amazingly successful at and amazingly proficient at, but look up, look beyond that and say, “What should we be doing next?”
And when you do that, the first thing you see is this part of the world because of its central importance to the world going forward.
So when the president and everybody talks about rebalancing the effort of our military towards this region, that's what they're talking about. So you'll see that reflected in everything we do.
And so for you and your careers, this is a very exciting place to be at this time in our history. You're going to be right at the center of things.
And within the region as a whole, nothing is more central than Korea, because you have a mission that there's nothing abstract about it, there's nothing -- requires a lot of imagination. All you have to do is look north.
It was remarked that I've been there. And if you haven't had the pleasure of being there, going there reminds you why you're here.
And you have to be ready every day. You are ready every day. You are next to our units that are actually in Afghanistan at this moment. You, like them, have to be at the highest state of readiness.
That's why you're getting great new facilities, the fanciest base in the Army. That's why you have the newest and best equipment. Because your proficiency, your readiness, your capability has to be absolutely tip-top for you to do what you do.
And I know you do that. And that's the great thing about our military. You not only do that, but as the Japanese learned in the earthquake relief, we have not only the best fighting military in the world, but we have the most humane and skilled at dealing with people and foreign societies.
And I know you do that every day. You're out there in the society and so forth and you conduct yourselves with decency and dignity and treat other people with -- with dignity.
And that's amazingly important. You don't find that everywhere around the world. And in the American military you find it. You should be very proud of that, as proud of that as you are proud of your combat capabilities.
So you have much to be proud of. You have much to feel good about when you wake up every morning. And you should. And I just wanted you to know that and to reflect on that a little bit and go home and tell your family about it.
But the main message from Secretary Panetta and all of us on down is: Thank you for what you're doing.
Now, come on up and we'll chat a little bit. (Applause.)