|U.S. Defense Secretary Visits Incirlik |
U.S. Defense Secretary Visits Incirlik
By Staff Sgt. Matt Summers, 39th Wing Public Affairs.
Incirlik Air Base, Turkey -- June 5, 2001 (AFPN) -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld came here June 4 to thank the men and women of Incirlik Air Base for their service and to congratulate them on a job well-done.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld shakes hands with Staff Sgt. William Baird, 39th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician, during the secretary's visit to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, on June 4. The secretary is on a European trip to attend ministerial meetings, visit U.S. troops and confer with foreign defense officials.
Photo by Senior Airman Matt Hannen
Rumsfeld, who is meeting with U.S. troops abroad for the first time since he became defense secretary in January, addressed a crowd of more than 600 people here.
"You help to keep the peace and maintain stability in this critical region of the world," he said. "You're helping to contain Iraq and preventing them from attacking their neighbors, menacing the Kurds in Northern Iraq and threatening vital security interests.
"You must know that yours is truly noble work," he said. "You wake up each morning and you voluntarily offer to put your lives at risk to contain aggression so that the people of this troubled region, as well as your fellow citizens back home, can go about their day in peace and freedom."
Although Rumsfeld was on the ground briefly, he said he was impressed with the pride and professionalism he witnessed. He also said he was thankful for the chance to finally meet the troops performing a mission that receives close scrutiny from the Department of Defense.
"I've been watching (Operation) Northern Watch from Washington very carefully every day and admiring the work you do," he said. "It's a great thrill for me to be here and have a chance to thank everyone personally."
Commenting on the evolution of Operation Northern Watch, Rumsfeld said although there are currently no changes to announce, officials periodically review the operation to determine the most effective means of carrying out the mission.
"With lives at risk, it's important that we be attentive to what's taking place," he said. "We are reviewing Iraqi policy overall."
Rumsfeld, who first visited Turkey in the 1960s as a congressman and NATO parliamentarian, said Turkey is a close friend and ally that plays an important role in the stability of the region.
"This is an important relationship and an important country," he said. "There's no question that with everything I've seen, the cooperation and the support they're providing is just terrific."
The future success of missions like Operation Northern Watch and that of the armed services as a whole, begins with people, Rumsfeld said.
"If we are not able to attract and retain the very best people in the Air Force and also the Army and Navy, our armed services will not be able to perform the important tasks they have to perform," he said. "We are focusing on this issue and hope to put in place some programs that will set us on a path that when we look back in five or six years (to see how) we've done we'll be able to say, 'not bad.'"