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UAE Troop Talk

April 16, 2016
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER:  (In Progress….) Second of all I know that I'm not seeing everybody, which is good because I don't want to interfere with either operations or sleep.  It's another form of operation we all value.

But, so you're going to have to pass the word a little bit.  But I just got two things I wanted to say.  First was about the mission and then is about you.  

And then I think we're going to do some questions also?

Good.

Okay, mission.  First and foremost.  Well, this is a very important part of the world.  I just came from the Asia-Pacific.  I'll mention that a little bit later.  But very important part of the world, and here what you are right at the center of at this time in this place is first and foremost defeating ISIL, which we're going to do, absolutely; I'm confident in it.  I just want to get it done as soon as possible.  More on that in a minute.

Second, this is a complicated region, and we have other interests as well, other issues as well.  Another 'I' out there is Iran.  So you, too, are part of the system of deterrents and countering Iran's malign influence in the region, standing tall with our friends.

So let me say something about ISIL first, but you guys know this very well.  We have, first of all, to destroy ISIL in Syria and Iraq, because that's where this whole thing arose.  That's what -- if you think about cancer that's where the parent tumor is.  And we need to destroy it there so it will become clear to everybody that there can't be a state.  There isn't going to be a state based on this ideology.  So that's what you're up to here, and we also secondly need to go after every place that's spread around the world.  We're doing that, too.  And then third, we have to protect our own homeland and our own people.

But here you're part of number one, which is absolutely necessary, not sufficient -- got to do the other ones too -- but absolutely necessary.  And what we're trying to do here, and  here I enlist your thoughts and your advice, is we want to do more.  We're going to do more, because we want to accelerate this and get it over with as fast as we can.  We're limited only by our own ingenuity and our ideas.  We're doing it the way that is strategically sensible namely -- and this is difficult, but it's got be done this way -- we're working to enable capable, motivated local forces on the ground, because after ISIL is defeated, somebody's got to keep them defeated.  We've seen this movie before, and so we've got to make sure that there's a hold force afterward.  That's why working with the Iraqis and working with capable guys on the ground in Syria is so important.

But they can't do it without us.  They can't do it without us in the air.  They can't do it with us -- without us on the ground, and we're doing that. And our -- your colleagues who work the air from the seas, special operations folks, the whole deal -- cyber, space -- the whole weight of our military.  And by the way, a lot of good coalition friends and partners is -- in the fight, and that's why I'm confident we'll win.

But we're looking to do more.  We're looking for opportunities, in essence, to get this over with faster.  So if you see something, say something to your commanders.  And I just wanted you to know, from the top we're looking to do more.  We expect to be doing more.  More of the same kind of stuff of -- but more.

I guess it's worth mentioning also that you can see the momentum and the pressure having an effect on ISIL.  I don't want to go into that here, but you all see that.  You see it very much in a very tangible way in Ramadi, where the people are now coming back into Ramadi, in Hit where the Iraqi forces are pushing ISIL out, and then all the road up to Mosul, which we need to get to Mosul and collapse ISIL's control of that city, and do the same thing in Syria over in Raqqa.  That's what it's all about in terms of arrows on a map.  That's what it's all about.

But I'm confident we've got the momentum, and I'm certainly confident we're going to win, but we want to go faster.  

With respect to Iran -- oh, by the way, I should mention also I'll have a chance to talk to your commanders here as well over the next couple of days as they come in for the summit, and that's good also.  I'll get -- be more caught up, although I'm pretty much in touch with those guys every day.

With respect to Iran, I just say one thing, which is we have the nuclear deal with Iran, which is a good deal in the sense that it took the nuclear weapons out of the picture, provided it's implemented and all of that, and we're watching that.  But that doesn't take Iran out of the picture.  And the possibility of either outright aggression or the kind of malign activity that you see them exercising in the region that a lot of our friends and partners -- including our hosts here and others in the region -- are concerned about.  So that's the other big 'I' in this region, and then we are working with our friends and allies here to make them more capable.  That's what the point of the summit is.  

The president will be in the region actually in Saudi Arabia later this week.  I'll be meeting with your hosts here, and with the Saudis before, help pave way the way some for the president, but just to give you an idea of what he's up to, he knows these are good friends and allies, and they worry about both of the 'I's' also, and that they need capability, and they don't have all of the capabilities that they need.

Some of their capabilities are pretty good, like their air capabilities, but others like ground forces and so forth they're still working on.  We want to work with them.  So that's the purpose of the summit, not just for him to discuss, as of course he'll do, what the overall situation in the region and so forth.  But specifically to drill into their capabilities.

So that's your mission.  And now you.  You are doing with your lives right now the noblest thing that a person can do.  You're providing security.  And I like to say security is like oxygen.  If you have it you don't think about it.  But if you don't have it, it's all you can think about.  So without it, without what you provide people -- of course our people first and foremost, but then our friends, our allies, our folks in the region here, and  really indirectly, in one way or another, the whole world, without that people can't do what they -- they can't live their lives the way they want.  They can't raise their kids.  They can't send them off to school in the morning, give them a hug, go off to work, live lives that are full.  That's what it's all about.  You can't do it without security, and you provide that.  There can't be any better feeling than to be part of that, something that's so bigger than yourselves, and the biggest thing that there is.

So you should be proud of yourselves, but the other thing is we are incredibly proud of you.  I wake up for you guys every morning.  You're what we think about all day.  I'm so incredibly proud of what you do.  And to be able to go and talk to foreign leaders representing who you are makes me incredibly proud.  And of course that's -- the whole country feels that way.  We are all so amazed by what -- by your skill and so proud of you and what you stand for.  

So that's what I wanted to say.  Now let me hear from you, and you can either ask a question or you can tell me something you think I ought to know.

Sure.

Q:  How are you doing today, sir.  My name is Airman (inaudible).  I work egress on the F-22 from Elmendorf.  What are the three biggest changes proposed in your force of the future initiative, and what do they mean to the current military members?

SEC. CARTER:  Great.  Okay, I want to repeat that a little bit.  This is, what are the three most important parts, if I got it, of force of the future, what I call force of the future, and what does it mean; what do they mean.

And egress sounds like a good thing under the right circumstances, so I'm glad you're working on that.  I'm sure the F-22 crews like that idea.

Okay, well, first of all, "force of the future" is just my little phrase for this.  You are the finest fighting force the world has ever known.  It's my privilege to be secretary of defense with you guys, but I got to think ahead 10, 20, 30 years from now, and make sure that tomorrow's force is as great as this one.

And of course we all know what makes us the greatest isn't only this equipment; it's first and foremost you.  It's good people, and an all-volunteer force.  So you're real question is how do we keep a good thing going, is another way of asking your -- so and I'll just tick off a few things that I think that are important.

First, in terms of both recruiting and retaining people I'm very aware that our force is a family force.  You know this, but 70 percent of the officers are married.  50 percent of the enlisted are married.  So we are a married force.  And so I need to understand that to attract people and retain people they need to understand why that's compatible with what they're doing in their families, if they happen to have a family.  And so that's where things like maternity leave and paternity leave and daycare hours, and stuff like that, come in.

The point is -- I mean, I'm not just trying to be nice to people -- I like to do that, too -- but I also, I mean, I've got to tell you where to go, when to go and so forth, so there are limits to how nice I can be realistically.

And to be honest, I'm not trying to be nice; I'm trying to be effective.  So I need effective recruitment and retention techniques, and that's one.

Another one is to give you all more opportunities in the course of your career to develop, to get educations, to have the -- and experience outside of the Department of Defense for a year or two, maybe an industry or somewhere else, then come back in.  So that it creates a little bit more mobility for people.  That's an important piece of it.

I guess I should mention women in the service.  It's a very big deal, not strictly speaking part of force of the future, but it doesn't really matter.  And here -- the objective there is women make up half of the population of the United States, and I've got an all-volunteer force, so if I'm not tapping into to half of the talent in the country I'm making a mistake.  So it's that simple.

So that doesn't mean everybody's going to get to qualify for things.  It doesn't mean everybody is going to get to do what they want to do, it just means that I want to have access to all of the talent in the country.  That's what it's all about.  So we're going to do that.  That's going very well.  The implementation of that is under way, and I'm confident that'll work out (inaudible). 

So those are some examples.  But there's a lot to it, simply because you know, people are complicated.  People's lives are complicated.

And you guys are one generation, actually about two generations in here.  But remember I'm also thinking about the very -- the generation represented by the very youngest of you and the ones who will come after you, and they're different.  Different generations are different.  So we've got to be prepared within the profession of -- the limitations of the profession of arms to adapt so that, you know, kids that are coming along now who are as fantastic as you are look at what we do and say, I want to do that; I want to be part of that; I've got pay attention to that.

Q:  Thank you.

SEC. CARTER:  Sure.

Yes?

Q:  Good afternoon, sir.

My name is Sergeant (inaudible).  I'm out of Travis Air Force Base.  I'm an (inaudible) here with the air-refueling squadron.

And my question is, what do you see in store for the future of the United States presence in the location we are now and its mission?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, I think it has a bright future, and I don't mean that in a wise-guy sense, that this is disturbed part of the world, but it is.  And it's -- I mean, I think we're going to defeat ISIL and that'll be in the rearview mirror, but that isn't going to fix everything in this region.  There's still broken places.  There are old, simmering tensions.

And we have a lot of friends and allies in this region, so we're going to be here for the long run.  That's why it's so important that we're hosted well, and I think we are here in UAE.

Oh, by the way, that's something I ought to say also that I compliment you all.  Another thing I hear as I go around the world that makes me proud, people like working with you.  They like working with America.  Believe me, that's not true of everybody that they work with.  They like working with Americans, because you're not only good at what you do, but you're decent, you know, people, who conduct yourselves well and treat them well, so they like it.

So I think we're going to be here for a long time.  We don't have any intention of going anywhere.  We have long-term interest and long-term friends here.

Q:  Thank you.

SEC. CARTER:  We're going to get this particular piece of ISIL business over with, but there'll be other stuff to do.

Q:  Thank you, Sir. 

SEC. CARTER:  Sure.

Q:  Good afternoon, sir.  I'm Major (inaudible), and I'm serving as an installation (inaudible) here.

My question for you is, is there a consideration being made for authorizing the Operation Inherent Resolve Medal to those supporting from locations outside of Iraq and Syria?

SEC. CARTER:  Yes, it's a good question.  I think we need to give that some thought.  For everybody who doesn't know about it, it's -- this new medal is for now restricted to people who are serving in the -- on the place of Iraq and Syria, but you guys are fighting the war too, as far as I'm concerned, so we -- I definitely really need to give some thought to that.

Q:  Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir.

SEC. CARTER:  That it?  Nobody else?

(UNKNOWN):  I think we're good, sir.

SEC. CARTER:  Yes, yes. 

Okay, so let's do this.  Let me now having thanked you collectively, looking each one of you in the eye thank you personally and give you coin.  Okay, and we'll get a picture at the same time.  You get the picture and you can -- send it to your families or friends or whoever, because I want them to know how proud I am of you.