Meeting with U.S. Armed Forces

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Andersen Air Force Base, Guam
October 29, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. Please sit down, those of you who have a place to sit. It is wonderful to be here and to be back in Guam and to thank you in person for what you’re doing every single day for our country. I just flew in from Honolulu and I could see out the window of the plane the vastness of the Pacific and I felt all the better that you were here in Guam standing watch and providing defense, not only for Guam and the United States, but for so many of our friends and allies in this region.

I want to thank Governor Felix Camacho for being here today and thank him for his service to the people of Guam.  And I’m grateful for the leadership of Rear Admiral Paul Bushong, Commander of Naval Forces Marianas, and Brigadier General John Doucette, Commander of the 36th Wing, and I think that’s a Global Hawk sitting there.  So I see the signs, welcome to Global Hawk country. And I just saw some of the imagery and I think I recognized my cousin on the street.

We have men and women here from the Army, the Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard. So let me ask you: Who’s here from the Army? Whoa, lonely group. (Laughter.) A hardy, brave group in this outpost of everyone else. What about here from the Navy? (Applause.) (Laughter.) Oh, I could barely hear you all. Who’s here from the Navy? (Applause.) All right. What about the Marines? (Laughter.) (Applause.) Well, I don’t think you’ll be lonely for too long. What about the Air Force? (Applause.) Now, I don’t have a noise meter up here, but I think it’s pretty close between the Air Force and the Navy. And how about the Coast Guard? (Applause.) (Laughter.) And I met a National Guardsman, too. How about the National Guard? (Laughter.) Oh, yeah.

Well, I am delighted to see and to hear every single one of you and I know that some of your units have just come back from deployments all over the Pacific from our Medevac detachment unit in Basra, Iraq. Thank you for your service. From Afghanistan, thank you for your service. (Applause.) We are grateful to each and every one of you and we’re also grateful to your families. Because I know that maybe one of you is actually in uniform, but the entire family serves. And so please express my appreciation to them as well.

I’m here on my sixth trip as Secretary of State to the Asia Pacific region, because this is the center of much of the change and many of the challenges of the 21st century. I gave a speech, I guess it was yesterday now in Hawaii, outlining some of those changes and challenges and explaining what we are doing to meet them. We are engaging evermore actively in this region with our allies, our partners, with emerging powers, with institutions that are being built in order to keep the peace, advance prosperity and stability. This is an opportunity for me to come to Guam, the home of 170,000 very loyal American citizens who care deeply about our country and who are part of our extended defense.

I will go from here to Vietnam, a country that we are developing stronger relationships with that were unimaginable even 10 years ago, let alone 40 years ago. And then for me it is on to China for a brief stop to discuss the upcoming trip to the United States of President Hu Jintao, then to Cambodia and Malaysia and then on to Papua New Guinea and then to New Zealand, Australia and my last stop will be American Samoa. In just a few weeks, President Obama will be visiting India, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea as well. So you can see we’re paying a lot of attention to what’s going on in the Asia Pacific region, because the United States is both an Atlantic and a Pacific power. And one of our goals coming into office 20 months ago was to reassert the American presence in Asia. And everywhere I travel on your behalf, I hear from leaders and citizens alike that they are glad America is back.

As we step up our engagement, we will depend more than ever on each of you. The men and women of our armed forces are one of the most important assets we have for engaging in the world. And your mission is evolving for the 21st century and no one understands that better than you do. You’re called to provide a wide range of services and activities in a variety of places. For instance, earlier this year, sailors from Guam were part of a five-month humanitarian deployment of the USNS Mercy delivering medical and dental care to the people of Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, and Palau. America’s military might married to our values, our humanitarian compassion is what sets us apart. No one doubts the ferocity of our defensive and offensive ability. But everyone counts on who we are as Americans and how we convey those fundamental connections human being to human being.

And after the devastating earthquake in Haiti last January, the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle that’s based here was used to survey the damage and identify safe landing places for aircraft carrying relief supplies. I know that firsthand, because every day I saw the images and, with a group of us from across the government, tried to plot out how we could most quickly deliver services and figure out how to move people to safety. These humanitarian missions are some of the purest expressions of American generosity and I thank you for showing what is the best about all of us.

More and more you are also called on to cooperate with forces from other countries. And these efforts strengthen our joint security and they show our allies that we remain deeply committed to them. I had a two-hour meeting yesterday in Honolulu with the Japanese foreign minister and we discussed a broad range of matters. But it’s important to Japan, to South Korea, to the Philippines, to Australia, to Thailand, who are our allies with whom we have security agreements that the United States is there. And increasingly, it is important to other nations that we are as well.

I know that today the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5 is hosting members of the South Korean military for joint training and identifying and implementing a plan to eliminate improvised explosive devices. Those of you who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan know what a scourge those IEDs are and how important it is we do even more to prevent them and to find them and to destroy them before they harm any of our people or innocent civilians. This is the kind of collaboration that saves lives and improves the relationship between us and other countries.

Finally, I want to acknowledge that while there’s an obvious upside to serving in Guam – I was looking out the window of the plane. The last time I was here, it was dark. So I didn’t see those beaches as clearly as I did this time. I know it comes with a downside as well. Many of you miss your families. Although, in today’s world you can communicate instantaneously and virtually with them, it’s not the same. So I’m sure there are times when you feel very, very far away. And I can’t resist saying as a mom, I hope you’re calling and emailing often so that people know that you’re okay out here in the Pacific.

With Veteran’s Day approaching, I want you and your families to know that the American people remain grateful and proud for your service. The dedication and sacrifices of the American military are very obvious in this region. We’ve been there standing sentinel. We’ve been there defending and taking the fight to those who would undermine freedom, our way of life, and the opportunity for millions and millions of others to have a chance to live up to their own God-given potential. It’s a great honor for me to have a chance to come here and personally express the appreciation and gratitude of all of those who may not know your names and may never come to Guam, but because you’re here, they sleep more soundly at night.

I look out at all of you and it makes me very proud to be the Secretary of State of our great country. In fact, everywhere I go and every place I visit being able to say I represent the United States of America never ever ceases to send a chill down my spine. My dad was a World War II Navy vet. And I know from my own growing up how important it is that you’re on duty for me, for my family, for your families, and for all of us and for future generations. Thank you and God bless you.

PRN: 2010/T35-3