By Terri Moon Cronk
DOD News, Defense Media Activity
The people of the U.S. military are what make it the greatest fighting force the world has ever known, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said during a troop talk at U.S. Africa Command headquarters in Stuttgart June 4.
Following a 10-day trip to focus on the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, Carter told service members the United States’ many friends and allies around the world are “a great force multiplier,” … [but] it still comes down to the service members for their work to secure the nation.”
With one million spouses, three million family members and the civilian workforce also comprising the DOD family, Carter said he is proud to be part of a “wonderful” team.
‘You come first’
“I advise the president about the use of force and our role in the world today,” he said, “and I make sure I keep the pledge to myself that you come first … your safety, welfare and dignity are always respected.”
Carter said while he wishes Congress was “more generous” with the resources it provides DOD, the military strives to use them wisely, “so the total investment is the force the country and the world so desperately need — and that’s you.”
The military mission is not a game, the secretary emphasized.
“It is serious business,” Carter said. “What we provide [to] people, which is security, allows them … to do everything human beings want to do. They want to have dreams, raise children, [and] hand off a world and country to their children that’s better. None of that is possible without security. It’s the bedrock.”
The secretary said he wanted to “foot stomp” how important AFRICOM’s mission is, and while it is the newest combatant command, it has “done so much and proven its worth so thoroughly.”
He told Africom’s members, “You have risen to the cause, whatever it’s been that affects the people of Africa, but ultimately, indirectly, our own security.”
The work of Africom personnel, such as helping to curb last year’s Ebola disease epidemic in West Africa, “made you and our country big heroes in the eyes of people,” Carter said.
“Showing what we stand for and who we are is important because we’ll need that in a pinch, when we need people to understand who we are,” he said.
Why does DOD need AFRICOM? Carter asked.
“We’re in a counterterrorism pinch and that’s no joke,” the secretary emphasized. “The evil of [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant], narcotics, corruption, organized crime … are rife in Africa and ultimately they will come home to roost if we don’t combat it there, and that’s what you’re doing so ably.”
The secretary spoke of the “American secret sauce,” defining it as, “Good people around the world like working with us.”
Bad people “fear us” and that’s a pretty good place to be, Carter said.
“That is very true in Africa,” the secretary told the AFRICOM troop audience, “and you represent a hugely successful application of that strategic theory.”