Rumsfeld Says Djibouti Service 'Difficult, Potentially Dangerous'

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti, Dec. 11, 2002 -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld thanked the U.S. service members based here for their sense of duty. He said their service in the country on the Horn of Africa is important.

He spoke in a newly built maintenance facility on the base, adjacent to the Djibouti International Airport. Many of the 900 service members stationed at the base attended his talk. Rumsfeld then took questions.

Map of Djibouti. (Click map for screen-
resolution image.) (Map courtesy CIA World Factbook.)

Rumsfeld spelled out why the men and women are in Djibouti. "We need to be where the action is," he said. "And there is no question but that this part of the world is an area where there is action."

He said their job in the global war on terrorism is difficult "and potentially dangerous." He told the men and women that they carry on their shoulders not only "the values of America, but the hopes of the world."

He said they're in place to prevent another more devastating attack. He said thousands of people died in the attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. But there are regimes that have the means and will and connections to terrorist organizations to use weapons of mass destruction to kill tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

"Our job, your mission, is to stop attacks of such magnitude," he said.

He said their presence in Djibouti proves the United States is not in this war alone, and that countries must unite to fight terror organizations and states that sponsor them.

The secretary answered some questions from the troops. One asked about pay and he explained that all service members will receive a 4.1 percent pay raise in January with mid-level enlisted personnel and mid-level officers receiving a targeted raise.

Another asked if there was some thought to lowering the age where reserve component personnel can receive retirement pay from 60 to 55. He said no and went on to explain that he is looking at ways that would allow some personnel to serve beyond their high years of tenure.

A third asked the secretary if Camp Lemonier would become permanent. He said there is a terrorist threat in the region from Yemen and in the southern part of Saudi Arabia. "These are serious problems," he said. "I suspect that if you look out one, two, three or four years, this facility will be here."

Finally, a service member asked the secretary about the possibility of getting smallpox vaccinations. He said there is smallpox vaccine available and "first responders" -- police, firefighters and medical personnel -- will be the first to receive the vaccination. "Second will be the people likely to be in a field of action where this disease could be a problem," he said. The vaccinations will be "rolling out" in the weeks and months ahead.

The secretary again thanked the personnel for their service. "Each of you volunteered. . You offered to put your lives at risk so that all Americans can be free and live in peace," he said. "That's a very special calling you've undertaken."