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Secretary of Defense visits JBLM

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Todd Wivell
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
On a two-day visit to the Pacific Northwest, the 25th Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, took a day to visit with the service members of the Puget Sound here, March 4.

The secretary started his day with seeing a C-17 Globemaster III static, a 22nd Special Tactics Squadron and 1st Air Special Operations Group static, a Stryker vehicle, a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System vehicle and heard from Airmen and Soldiers at each of these locations about their equipment's unique capabilities.

From there he visited with the men and women from the 262nd Network Warfare Squadron on McChord Field to discuss cyber and then on to I Corps Headquarters building to discuss Pacific Pathways.

His trip rounded out with a visit back to McChord Field where he conducted an all-call with more than 150 service members from across the Puget Sound, from Sailors and Marines from Bremerton and Bangor to Airmen and Soldiers from JBLM.

"It is great to look out at all of you and tell you how incredibly proud I am of all of you, to be at the helm of the finest fighting force the world has ever known is a tremendous privilege and to be part of a country that has forces as strong and as decent and as principled as you are is a wonderful thing, not just for us to protect our people but to leave a better world for our children and that's what you do," said Carter on his opening remarks to the service members.

The 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, from the Air Force Reserve's 446th Airlift Wing here, briefed Carter about aeromedical evacuation procedures. Carter spoke of the total force concept at JBLM, which was just one of the demonstrations that highlighted that concept.

He continued to talk about how JBLM was at the pivot point of strategic history for the United States and stated it was that way for two reasons, doing it all and having it all.

He went on to state that he meant by "doing it all," that he meant JBLM has the capabilities and is involved in all of the major challenges this country faces. He outlined five major challenges that we face as a country right now.

"In the Asian Pacific region we have first of all the challenge of maintaining the role that the US has played for decades and decades out here which is to provide the military fly wheel, the system of security that has allowed the Asian miracle of prosperity which has been good for America to occur," said Carter. "It has been in the atmosphere of peace and stability provided by us that Japan rose, then South Korea, Taiwan, Southeast Asia and today China and India and that's a good thing.

"China's rise is fine, Chinas aggressive behavior is not. We and lots of our partners out here look to us to apply a counterweight to check anything excessive and you do that here, all of the services represented here.

"We talk about a rebalance to the Asia Pacific and that is a recognition of the fact that this part of the world, of which this region is a part, is where a half of the humanity lives and where a half of the world's economic activity is, so it is the single region of greatest consequence to the American future."

He continued to speak about challenges we face in the Pacific and addressed North Korea and how if there were to be a crisis on the Korean peninsula that this area would be a hub for which forces moved out of. He spoke of Russia and how units from this area have been participating already in the European reassurance initiative, which is aimed at making sure that we deter Russia aggression in Europe and he spoke of Iran and how we have a nuclear deal with them and although it prevents them from getting a nuclear weapon it does not solve all of our issues with Iran.

He then went on to talk about one of the biggest challenges being ISIL.

"We will defeat ISIL, we have to defeat ISIL, I am confident that we will but we need to get on with it and we need to accelerate that process and put an end to that and defeat them first in Syria and Iraq which is where this cancer began, where the parent tumor was and to kill it there and make it clear that there is no such thing as state based upon the ideology and then everywhere it is spread around the world and at the same time protecting our own people," said Carter. "We are accelerating that now, we are doing it in every possible way and I will mention two that are capabilities resident right here. They are not being used for that right now but I don't rule it out for the future."

He spoke of his visit with one of the JBLM HIMARs unit and how they would be deploying to the Middle East and how they would be participating in the counter-ISIL fight. He also spoke of his visit to the cyber unit on McChord Field and talked about their defensive operations, defending our DoD networks and helping our civil society to defend critical infrastructure in our country.

He went on to discuss cyber offensive operations and how it would benefit the fight against ISIL.

"We are going offensive against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, there is no reason why these guys should be able to command and control over the internet, there is no reason why they should be sending these nasty messages around, there is no reason why they should be able to use the internet and social media to dominant and tyrannize the people on whose territory they now sit and we are going to knock that out," said Carter.

Carter spoke of this regions expertise in technology and how it is benefiting the military and those assigned to this area.

"Second thing, after you, that makes our force the finest fighting force the world has ever known, is our technology," said Carter. "It is important that we be the first with the most not just now but 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years from now and that means we have to leverage the tremendously initiative American technology economy and make sure we are completely up to date and have the very best in our military."

One final thing he recognized about this area was the total force concept and how Guard, Reserve and active duty, all work together to make it happen. He shared one example of how he saw that in his short visit.

"I visited this historic cyber unit here that is made up exactly of that total force and they are not only doing something path breaking, that is working in the cyber domain but they are doing it in the way that allows the military to have access to extremely experienced people in the field of technology," said Carter. "These are people who work in leading companies but they serve their country at the same time, that's one of the beauties of having a strong Reserve component in our country."

Finishing his talk with the troops he left them with these parting words.

"So you have it all here, you do it all and I wanted you to know when you talk to your families and you tell them you saw the Secretary of Defense that first of all on behalf of our entire country he thanked you for what you do," said Carter. "You're doing the noblest thing that a person can do with their life but also that you right here right now are at a hinge of strategic history and you are going to make strategic history. We are extremely proud of you and I am so proud of you and you are absolutely a wonderful capability, God help anybody who gets in your way."

After taking several questions from the service members in the crowd, he then took the time to meet and greet each one of the more than 150 military and thanked them for what they do.