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Secretary of Defense Gates Thanks Sailors for their Decision to Serve

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS090717-23
Release Date: 7/17/2009 5:13:00 PM

By Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Rhonda Burke

NAVAL STATION GREAT LAKES, ILL (NNS) -- Secretary of Defense Dr. Robert M. Gates thanked the Navy's newest Sailors and their families for their decision to serve our nation, especially in a time of war.

Gates served as reviewing officer for the recruit graduation ceremony welcoming the Navy's newest 971 Sailors to the fleet, July 17.

"You are the next generation of Sailors that has been tasked with the heavy burden of ensuring the safety and security of our nation," Gates said. "I have no doubt that you are up to the task. It takes uncommon perseverance to make it through basic training, just as it takes uncommon patriotism to make the decision to join the military in time of war."

During his visit to the Navy's only basic training facility, Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Gates had the opportunity to tour various training facilities and recruit living spaces as well as observe Battle Stations-21 and the recruit capping ceremony.

Gates' message to the new Sailors is that they are now part of the greatest Navy that has ever sailed on the world's oceans.

"Just as in the days of wooden ships and iron Sailors, our enemies underestimate our resolve and capabilities at their own peril," Gates said.

The Secretary of Defense also recognized the vital role Sailors are playing on the ground in the Central Command area of operations.

"Every time I visit the war theatre, I am struck by the number of Sailors on the ground," Gates said. "Right now there are more Sailors deployed on land in the Central Command theatre than on ships."

For the new Sailors, the significance of having the Secretary of Defense speak at their graduation was not lost.

"It was a great experience to be here when he is," said Seaman Recruit Jamesha Howard of Shreveport, La. "It was a big surprise."

Gates told the Sailors their new job is critical to our nation.

"Boot camp is the first step of the journey which you have embarked on," Gates said. "You now have the great responsibility to defend our nation and its interest at home and in distant lands. It is not an easy task, but it is a vital one."

Gates was sworn in as the 22nd Secretary of Defense, Dec. 18, 2006. He is the only Secretary of Defense in U.S. history to be asked to remain in that office by a newly elected President.

This was his first visit to Naval Station Great Lakes, which is the largest military installation in Illinois and hosts the Navy's only Recruit Training Command. Each year nearly 40,000 men and women complete the requirements to become enlisted Navy Sailors at the Navy's only boot camp.

For more news from Recruit Training Command, visit

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