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Remarks by Secretary Carter at a Troop Event, Baghdad, Iraq

April 18, 2016
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

STAFF: (Inaudible) -- recognized something that -- well, he's going to recognize what we do here by presenting the Operation Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal. This is a different kind of campaign, it's not like ones that we've fought before. It's by with and through indigenous forces on the ground. But it still requires courage and skill and sacrifice on the part of all the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of the CJTF, and I think it's appropriate that we recognize that with this medal.

So we are privileged to see I think five of the very first recipients of this medal -- (inaudible) -- made available -- authorized here at the end of March. So we have our secretary of defense here, he's a great supporter of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, our families and our mission.

Sir?

(Applause.)

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: Don't clap for me, you should be clapping for them, but I appreciate it. We're going to do the OIR medal first, right? Okay.

So I got -- you got -- what we're doing here is this is the new medal, Operation Inherent Resolve Medal, and what I'm going to do is give it to five of you who kind of represent the joint force here, but everybody who works here will get that. But we're going to do some of them now and I think it’s you guys, right? (inaudible).

Great. So now, I now all I need is the medal. Come over here.

STAFF: The Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal was designed with carefully chosen symbolism. The scorpion represents he predator arachnid that is often found in arid desert climates. The sword or dagger is a defensive weapon used to guard against and protect from dangerous omens. When combining these two symbols into the design of the Military Campaign Medal, they represent the defense of freedom, liberty and justice from those predators who would infringe on those values considered -- (inaudible) -- to a free and orderly society.

The -- (inaudible) – clutching the dagger represents strength and courage in the defense of liberty and freedom. The Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal is awarded to the following individuals -- (inaudible) -- service and support of -- (inaudible) -- of Operation Inherent Resolve would begin on 25 November, 2014. Presented 18 April, 2016, by Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter.

Staff Sergeant -- (inaudible). Sergeant Curtis -- (inaudible). Corporal Jeremy Lee. Specialist Ariana Martinez. Petty Officer First Class Charles -- (inaudible).

(Applause)

SEC. CARTER: All right -- (inaudible). Listen, first of all, those are the first five, and -- (inaudible) -- magnificent. Where is Sean? Sean, thank you. Thanks for that. You could have no better leader-- (inaudible). I've known him for along time -- (inaudible).

Okay. And I’m here today to do two things basically. Number one, --(inaudible) -- and always is to see you. Second is to hear from our commanders about the progress here and what I can do to help you, because that's our job back at the Pentagon. We aren't doing the fighting back there, our job is to help you to win.

And the third is to talk to the leaders of this country (inaudible) -- Mr. Abadi -- (inaudible). And I just spoke by telephone to President -- (inaudible).

So I’m going to do two things with you. One is to talk with you about the progress of the campaign upon which you are embarking and the second is to give some personal words of appreciation for you.

So let me start with the first one and I guess the bottom line there is you all -- thanks to you, have made enormous progress in the campaign. The whole world watches, a proud country watches. We're confident that you're on the path to a lasting defeat of ISIL. We have to do that and we are confident that you will do it.

Our strategy, very straightforward and to many of you -- (inaudible) -- see a bunch of familiar faces and saw a couple of them come up and get the medal. I described this strategy and the operational construct that goes with it for the first time way back in December when we were just preparing to deploy here. And now, look at -- (inaudible). That's just -- (inaudible) -- here.

But the strategy overall is very straightforward. It is, first of all, to destroy ISIL, we are in the place where it arose, the parent tumor of this cancer ISIL, and that's here in Iraq and in Syria. And not only defeat them, but ensure their lasting defeat. Which means that local capable motivated forces must hold the -- (inaudible) -- defeat and ultimately govern these places in the way that ISIL would never be capable of doing and where the people -- (inaudible).

So step one, defeat ISIL in a lasting way here in Iraq and Syria. And second, we have to combat its metastasis –-(inaudible) -- many places here and there around the world. We're doing that and then the third of course is to protect our country and protect our people back in the heartland.

So, that's the strategy. As I said our strategic approach, makes sure that the defeat of ISIL is lasting. It is to enable capable and motivated local forces to sustain the defeat. We are committed, I am committed to doing more to accelerate that defeat. We want to do it as fast as we possibly can, doing more. Particularly to support the Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga forces here in the battle for Mosul.

Which is part of a critical objective to which we have been gathering momentum through the recapture of Ramadi, now Hit, and now onward to Mosul and other objectives as well -- (inaudible) -- Mosul of great importance. At least to enable the Iraqi Security Forces and the Peshmerga forces to envelop the city and ultimately collapse ISIL control of this objective, the most populous city in Iraq.

So I came here to discuss these next plays with our commanders, with our Iraqi partners, and also some coalition members. As I said, I met with Prime Minister -- and the minister of defense – (inaudible). The first thing I wanted to do is come and tell you about those leaders, because you are the ones -- you are what matters the most right now.

But to us, the country, what you do with this is what matters most. And we're counting on you. And we are completely confident in you. So I wanted to hear you, hear it from you cause you hear it from me first, cause this is the first anybody here had heard what today felt like. And I thought you all deserved to hear it first.

So, first of all, I'll say this. The Prime Minister, the rest of the leadership and also the President Barzani and he -- I are in complete agreement on the approach to the next steps. Both the steps we're going to take and what we're going to do to accelerate our progress down that path, including and very importantly the campaign against Mosul.

I was able to share with them and I wanted to share with you some additional actions that the president has authorized us to take in support of the Iraqi government. And if Prime Minister Abadi today approves and with my -- also, with -- (inaudible).

And they are, first. We are going to place additional advisers with the Iraqi Security Forces, now down to brigade and battalion headquarters -- (inaudible) --. Second, we're going to make available attack helicopters in support of the ISS and ongoing efforts to envelop and then retake Mosul. It's an important capability.

Third, we're going to send some additional HIMARS to support the Iraqi ground offensive to retake Mosul. And you are all familiar with that weapon system that important addition to our fire -- we already do from the air and with our artillery and –- (inaudible).

Fourth and really importantly, we're going to provide financial assistance through the Peshmerga, which was an agreement of Prime Minister Abadi which is how we do everything here. To both serve what has been –- (inaudible) -- Peshmerga, one of the most effective fighting forces against ISIL.

As you know, we also provide substantial assistance to the Iraqi Army, the counterterrorism service and the Iraqi police. And fifth, as we do all this, we are going to adjust what you're doing, that is, how we use our distance forces that are here and we're going to bring in additional -- (inaudible).

As you know, this is on top of what we're already doing. We're providing air power, command and control, other fire, training, sustainment, logistics. It's very important that by being here now you -- the United States with our coalition partners -- relief training essential. We've seen that on –- (inaudible) -- Ramadi today and the kind of political and economic support that the government needs to sustain the defeat.

And in particular, for example, in Ramadi right now. Stabilization of Ramadi, and then Hit. Not just from the United States, but from other coalition partners. All of that, we're adding to in the ways I’m describing to you today. And, I want more importantly the president, will continue to be asked to, even if we're asking more of ourselves, to ask more of our coalition partners in Europe, (inaudible) and elsewhere.

And probably some of you right here with us today and we appreciate that, because the coalition already had the largest presence here in Iraq. So, that's the story. And thanks to your work, thanks to your work here, these steps into –- (inaudible) -- today will accelerate what we know to be the certain defeat of ISIL.

Second thing that I wanted to say. Now, let's -- that's the campaign you are embarked upon -– (inaudible) -- Now, let's talk about you. First and foremost, you sit there, you are so magnificent. I can't tell you how proud I am. How proud I am to be the secretary of defense. It is the finest fighting force the world have ever known. That view. It makes me so proud.

And it's not just me. A full country is incredibly proud of you. We're grateful to you. Well, thank you for what you're doing here. Thank you for the sacrifice and the risk it entails. And thanks also to your families. As we know, that behind every great sailor, soldier, airman and the Marines, is a great family as well.

-- (inaudible) --. So make sure that you tell them too. I'm very appreciative. You should know and I'm sure you do know how critically important this mission is. We've got to do it. It's not the only thing we have to do around the world. We've got a lot of responsibilities throughout the world. But we're a great and powerful country and have a lot of friends.

Made a lot of friends for very different reasons, because they like what we stand for and they love working with you guys. Because you're so skilled, that you're all so decent, you conduct yourselves very well. They like working with you. And all that's a really powerful combination.

Your ingenuity, your inherent resolve, all that is going to -- (inaudible) – Iraq to ensure its own sovereignty here, and that's a critical part of the victory against ISIL.

You're going to see things that seem important as the battlefield shifts. We're looking for opportunities to accelerate this. I'm looking for them, General MacFarland is looking for them, the president is looking for them, the whole country's looking for them. So if you see things that'll make it go faster, make it go safer, send your ideas up the chain of command. We're very open to your insights -- to your operational insights and practical insights, very much open to -- (inaudible). You will see opportunities that we do not see-- (inaudible).

There are more steps ahead. We know that. We know there are more steps ahead, but we also know we're going to win.

The campaign medal that some of you now wear and all of you will wear is something you'll wear for the rest of your lives, and as we do that, you'll look back on this time right here, right now in Baghdad right now and say that was the time when the defeat of ISIL and recapture by the civilized world of territory and the people of this place from this evil group). Right here, right now, you were part of the culmination of that process. I'm confident of that. You'll look back with great pride upon what you did. I don't have to look back. I look out right now and I feel that pride in you. Thanks for what you are doing today.

Now, what I want to do is I'll take some questions, or they could be comments, and in the spirit of what I just said because we are looking for ideas, questions and comments. Then I want to get each of you, one by one, up here, look you in the eye myself give you a coin and thank you, and looking at the faces here, I'll bet you about half of you have already done this before.

So you'll get another coin, and when you get another coin, find somebody who hasn't had an opportunity to -- (inaudible) -- to get one yet and pass it on to them, okay? Because I'm seeing lots of faces here I've seen at Fort Campbell and saw in the pre-deployment training a lot of you are very familiar, okay?

So come up -- I'm sorry. We'll do questions first of all. Any questions, and I don't know where folks should go -- (inaudible) -- come right up here -- (inaudible) -- just stand next to me and use the same mic -- (inaudible).

A medal winner.

Q: Sir, is there any intent to extend the deployment time from nine months to twelve months?

SEC. CARTER: Well, a -- (inaudible) -- deployment time from nine months to twelve months -- you know, we really don't want to do that. (Inaudible) -- but, you know, in the past, when we were really stretched and so forth we’ve done that kind of thing but we really want to avoid that. That's not good for the force overall, it's not good for you, it’s not good for your family. That's not going to be necessary.

All right. (Inaudible) -- two questions. Any comment -- (inaudible)?

Q: (Inaudible). With the number of troops expanding for Operation Inherent Resolve while we still support the mission in Afghanistan, how do you see this affecting the draw down?

SEC. CARTER: In army end strength?

Q: Yes, sir.

SEC. CARTER: Yes, we're not changing our plans for army end strength. We think the number we're aiming for is fine and we may find, even with our commitment in Afghanistan our commitments here-- (inaudible) -- need to know – I’m sure you do know that as large as they are, they're just a fraction of the overall -- (inaudible) -- of the army. I just came from the Asia-Pacific. There's a lot of armies operating over there, a lot of army deployment.

So we need Army end strength, so the end strength that I'm working towards with the Army and with your chief General Mark Milley is the one that we've been planning on for a while. We were well above what we now need. For a time, because we had the large rotational forces coming in and out of here and also Afghanistan. We're not anticipating large rotational forces like that and therefore, there's no need.

On the other hand, we have a global crisis so we still need a big army. So we've been going gradually and carefully because in respect of the people who are in -- (inaudible). So we're building this deliberation for -- (inaudible) -- for -- (inaudible) -- and that hasn't -- (inaudible).

One last thing I'll say, that Mark Milley and I -- he's very much agreed on for the Army here is our priority is that he -- our priority is -- (inaudible) -- and that's where we find an extra dollar here or there we put it towards-- (inaudible).

Q: What can you do to -- (inaudible) -- for deployments -- (inaudible)?

SEC. CARTER: I'm sorry. What can we do to -- (inaudible)?

Q: What can we do to improve -- (inaudible) -- for Operation Inherent Resolve?

SEC. CARTER: Is that family? Family readiness -- really important. A lot. A lot we can do, I’ll give you some examples. So family readiness is the ability of your families to support you when you come here and to support you throughout your career. Actually, it's important not only because I care about you, but because I want first of all to keep you because I want to keep good people and if I want to keep you, I've got to keep your family -- (inaudible) -- but everybody -- (inaudible) or another.

And you know, the old saying is you recruit a soldier and you gain a family -- (inaudible) -- after that, because we are. And also, if I'm going to recruit people, they need to know that military life is compatible with having a decent family. I'll give you some examples. There's a whole lot of stuff. And everything you hear about -- (inaudible) – so when you go into action, are there enough of you? All of those things are competing parts of the budget but they all go towards making you as effective –- (inaudible).

And we are doing specific things for families as well. (inaudible). Some of them are going to ask you in a few months. For example, extending both the maternity and paternity leave, which is a key -- (inaudible) -- to having the servicemembers who are at a moment where they are starting to take the next step in their military career but the next step with family as well.

And that's something we can agree with in having without letting it -- (inaudible) --. Where we can and where commanders allow it, you can take some geographic stability for additional duty. And I authorized that a couple of months ago.

So, there's various things that we do to make very -- (inaudible), cause this is a profession of ours. And I can't -- and I usually -- I get offended. I don’t have a choice, when the country needs you, we gotta send you –- (inaudible) -- That is what it is, for the profession of arms. But where we can make that more compatible with what we know you want.

Also, with the -- (inaudible). Where you can do that, we'll do that. Very specific.

Okay. Let's see. Everybody come on out. --

(END OF AUDIO)