By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
ABOARD USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, Oct. 19, 2012 - Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter today joined approximately 5,000 military members aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower to express the Defense Department's gratitude for their service, sacrifice and resiliency.
"I came here [today] to say 'Thank You' to each and every one of you," Carter said. "Sometime in the next 24 hours, each and every one of you should call to whomever's closest to you and tell them that today, from the leadership of your Defense Department to you, came a special word of thanks."
Carter thanked the sailors for the "remarkable" things they do following a busy day aboard the "Ike" where he toured the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, enjoyed lunch with six "Sailor of the Year" recipients, witnessed an air power demonstration, and then held an "all-hands" call.
The deputy defense secretary lauded the sailors for their resilience as they carried out their duties during an extended nine-month tour.
"It's an extended tour -- abnormally long," Carter said. "Sorry we asked you to do that, but you'll see in a moment why we did, and why it's so important that you rose to the call."
"Let me say why it's so important to be here at this time, in this place, maintaining security and stability in the Persian Gulf," Carter said. "When you ask a lot of Americans why would the Ike be out here, what comes to their mind right away, of course, is Afghanistan, right?"
Carter said the service members aboard the USS Eisenhower understand how they support the fight in Afghanistan, which is "incredibly important," but the mission doesn't stop there.
"You have a broader mission of deterring aggression in the Gulf, and you know there are potential aggressors there," he said. "And without you, they might try something that would be unfortunate for them if they tried it and you stopped them."
There's instability in this region, Carter said, which is reflected in the Arab Spring and in Syria.
"You all are the stability that counters that instability," he told the service members.
Carter noted there are still two more "tough" years of fighting ahead in Afghanistan, and it is "a very, very important mission for the world, and for all of us."
"But it's not just a matter of being able to respond to aggression and support our troops," he said. "There's another thing that you do out here which is you assure all of the people of goodwill ... that they live in a world in which the right thing is done, justice is stood up for, democracy is stood up for, all the things that we care about."
The deputy defense secretary said the presence of U.S. service members provides hope to other nations in the region for a "stable environment" as they deter aggression and counter instability.
"The great majority of the people here deserve that hope that they can have a better future," Carter said. "All those things you do, and that's why I thank you, and [Defense] Secretary [Leon E.] Panetta thanks you."
Carter also talked about the importance of transitioning the U.S. military for the future following the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"While we have been fighting these two wars for 11 years, the rest of the world hasn't stood still," he said. "Technology hasn't stood still."
Carter said U.S. defense leaders have sought to discern present and future security challenges to America and its allies.
Carter said this led to the nation's new defense strategy as U.S. leadership looks to build the "force of the future."
"In that next era, what are we going to need?" he asked. "We're going to need a force that's agile, it's going to have to be lean, it's got to be ready at a moment's notice and it's got to be technologically advanced."
"[It] sounds like the U.S. Navy operating as part of a joint force -- that's a bright future for the Navy," Carter said. "And it's a navy that's got to be able to conduct full spectrum operations and execute [a] range of operations."
The secretary also explained why the USS Eisenhower was needed in the Persian Gulf. In this era, he added, presence is necessary as a matter of military utility and to provide assurance.
"The best way to not have to use the combat power on this ship is to make sure that the good people who predominate most places are taking care of the bad people themselves, don't need us, and have the safety and security they need to build their own future," he said.
Carter also touched on the U.S. rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region since it will "dominate our economic-political future and we have to be there."
For the United States to remain the pivotal power in the Pacific, Carter said, the nation is "going to need the Navy, and we're going to need a presence there."
"It isn't our strategy, and it isn't our technology," he said. "It's our people that ... [are] unmatched anywhere in the world. [It's] the quality of people just like you who make it all work."
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower
Defense.gov Special Report: Travels with Carter
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