|Cheney Makes Air Force First Stop in 10-Day Middle East Swing|
Cheney Makes Air Force First Stop in 10-Day Middle East Swing
By Senior Airman Matt Donegan *, USAF, Special to the American Forces Press Service.
Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar -- (AFPS) March 18, 2002 -- Vice President Dick Cheney visited the 366th Air Expeditionary Wing here March 17 during his first stop to an Operation Enduring Freedom base in the Middle East.
Vice President Dick Cheney (right) waves to his hosts, members of the 366th Air Expeditionary Wing, in Qatar, his first stop on a 10-day mission in the Middle East. "You're here because you believe in America. I'm here to tell you, America believes in you," he said, in delivering a message of thanks to the Air Force unit for its support of coalition operations in Afghanistan. His visit was on March 17, 2002.
As part of a 10-day, 12-nation circuit of the region, the vice president addressed service members on the vital role they're playing in the war on terrorism and the humanitarian assistance they're providing to the Afghan people. He addressed members of the wing and other U.S. units at the base during his one-hour visit.
"These are testing times for the U.S. and, in such a time, we are especially grateful for our military. You are here fighting for the defense of our country, and the forces of freedom will defeat the forces of terror," Cheney said.
"During Operation Enduring Freedom, and most recently Operation Anaconda, U.S. forces have encountered dangers and will encounter many more, but in the last five months, the al Qaeda and Taliban have gotten a good dose of American airpower," he said. "Missions from this location have made all the difference in Enduring Freedom and Anaconda."
Cheney and his entourage, which included his wife, Lynne, and the top White House counterterrorism official, received a rousing applause from troops as they entered Camp Andy, a temporary U.S. living and working area of nearly 200 heavy-duty, tan-colored tents. The camp is named after Air Force Master Sgt. Evander Earl "Andy" Andrews, the first U.S. casualty of Enduring Freedom, who died here Oct. 10 in a heavy- equipment accident.
"Afghanistan is only the beginning of a long effort," Cheney said at a camouflaged lectern. "The war will end when no terrorist group is allowed to threaten any nation. We will assist governments in fighting terrorist cells wherever they form. We will respond decisively and we will prevail."
Before leaving, Cheney had a few final encouraging words.
"You're here because you believe in America. I'm here to tell you, America believes in you."
With that, Cheney stepped down from the stage to shake hands and pose for pictures with many of the service members.
At the flight line, Cheney spoke with several wing members, including the commander of the 157th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, South Carolina Air National Guard. Nicknamed "D Dawg," the decorated combat pilot and an American Airlines captain in civilian life, gave the vice president a quick tour of the unit's F-16 aircraft, which are flying daily missions over Afghanistan.
The 157th EFS has eight fighter pilots on station who also fly for major airlines. Squadron officials note the role the unit played in homeland defense Sept. 11 -- its pilots were flying combat air patrols over Atlanta just four hours after the terrorist attacks.
Al-Udeid is a new air base owned and operated by the Qatari armed forces. Qatar, along with other members of the international coalition, is cooperating closely with the United States in all aspects of the fight against terror -- diplomatic, financial and military.
The 366th AEW is one of the larger Air Force wings in the region and has a number of support and operational functions. Aircraft supported by the wing include KC-10 and KC-135 refueling aircraft, E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft and F-16 fighters.
* Senior Airman Matt Donegan is assigned to the 366th Air Expeditionary Wing.