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News   Defense News

Secretary of Defense Austin Spoke at Hall of Heroes Inductees' Ceremony

Dec. 17, 2021 | BY TERRI MOON CRONK , DOD News

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke during a Hall of Heroes induction ceremony this morning conducted at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall for Medal of Honor recipients Army service members Sgt. First Class Alwyn Cashe, Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee and Sgt. First Class Christopher Celiz, Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby told the media in a Pentagon briefing this afternoon.

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The three soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony yesterday.

"We echo President [Joe] Biden in saying that we are grateful for all that these three soldiers have done and we certainly honor their courage and bravery under exceptional circumstances," the spokesman said.

Photos of three soldiers are displayed on stands on a stage in front of a seated audience.
3 Heroes
Portraits of Medal of Honor recipients Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher A. Celiz and Master Sgt. Earl D. Plumlee are displayed during a Hall of Heroes induction ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Dec. 17, 2021.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Wheeler, DOD
VIRIN: 211217-D-SH180-1333Y

Also this week, the Defense Policy Board met for the first time since completing the secretary's zero-based review process, Kirby said. That board, chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, received classified briefings on China's military modernization, the National Defense Strategy priorities and strategic approach, integrated deterrence, the Nuclear Posture Review and the Missile Defense Review, he said. 

"Secretary Austin joined the meeting yesterday to receive an outbrief from the board on their findings after reviewing a draft version of the still-classified 2021 National Defense Strategy," Kirby said. "The secretary thanks the members for their continued dedication to the nation and their sound advice and counsel as the department continues to refine the NDS." The board is charged to provide independent advice and recommendations on matters concerning defense policy in response to specific tasks from the secretary, the deputy secretary or the under secretary of defense for policy, he added.

Kirby said Austin today spoke by phone with German Federal Minister of Defense Christine Lambrecht to congratulate her on her new appointment to the role. "The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to strong U.S.- German defense cooperation, both bilaterally and of course, within the NATO alliance. They discussed their commitment to work together on a full range of challenges, including addressing Russia's destabilizing actions in Eastern Europe, ensuring NATO alliance unity, maintaining a positive trajectory on defense investments, and increasing cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region," he said.

As for recent confirmation hearings, Kirby said the Defense Department was pleased to see the confirmations of John Sherman, the new chief information officer, Nickolas Guertin, the new director of operational test and evaluation and Navy Adm. Chris Grady, the new vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and welcome all to their new roles. 

Tomorrow marks National Wreaths Across America Day at Arlington National Cemetery, in which wreaths will be placed at each marker by volunteers. Army. Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, plans to attend the morning's ceremony, Kirby said. 

Civilian stands at lectern and points at seated audience member.
Taking a Question
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby briefs reporters at the Pentagon, Dec. 17, 2021.
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. Taryn Sammet
VIRIN: 211217-D-ZY556-0018

"The event has grown over the past 30 years to include nearly 3,000 participating locations all across the country," he noted. 

And later today, U.S. Air Force Central will release their air power summary reports covering February 2020 to November 2021. "These reports will provide an overview of air operations to include strikes conducted in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan under Combined Forces Air Component commander authorities," Kirby said. 

"The public release of airstrikes in Afghanistan was paused in March of 2020 due to sensitivity surrounding the implementation of the U.S.-Taliban agreement. It's important to remember that during this time, DOD continued to collect and analyze the data and provided it to inspector generals for inclusion. And in their regular reports to Congress, seeking to remain as transparent as possible, the secretary directed that this data again be made publicly releasable," he said, adding the reports will be available later today on U.S. Air Forces Central's website.