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American Forces Press Service

Carter ‘Walking the Walk’ on Strategic Rebalance

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii, July 18, 2012 – Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter stood here today on the deck of the USS Missouri, the battleship that served as the site of the surrender that ended World War II, and summoned U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines gathered there to what he called “a new purpose in a new moment in our nation’s national security history.”

Carter visited Hawaii on the first leg of an Asia-Pacific regional tour that will take him to Guam, Japan, Thailand, India and South Korea. In Hawaii, home to U.S. Pacific Command, he told the roughly 150 service members in attendance that they will witness the U.S. strategic rebalance to the Pacific, while at the same time carrying on a long legacy of successful service in the region.

The USS Missouri’s teak deck the deputy secretary stood on is now part of a floating museum. The warship, the last Iowa-class battleship the U.S. launched and the last to serve, was anchored in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945, when U.S and Japanese representatives signed the document marking Japan’s surrender and the end of World War II.

“The folks who fought that war were about your age, or some of you are younger, and they were -- they were the greatest generation of that time,” the deputy defense secretary said.

Carter said his main points in speaking to the troops were to thank them for their service, and to explain why that service is important.

“You all are the greatest generation of this time,” he said. “And I want each and every one of you to go home tonight, to your family or your close friends, or call your parents or whoever is close to you, and say that today you were thanked by the leadership of the Department of Defense, and your country, for what you do.”

Everyone who works in national defense supports an effort greater than themselves, and greater even than the nation, Carter said, “because the United States still provides security to much of the world.”

The Asia-Pacific region shows the value of that security in its booming economies and enduring peace, he noted.

“It really starts with the principles that we [in the United States] stand up for, that we uphold, and that we have stood for in this part of the world for 70 years now,” Carter said.

The U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region has been constant and strong over those decades, he said, and is largely responsible for the region’s stability.

“In that environment of peace and security, first Japan was able to rise, then Korea was able to rise and now, yes, China [is] able to rise to develop their own people [and] to develop economically,” Carter said. “And that’s only possible in an environment of peace and security.“

Defense leaders “aim to continue to be the pivotal factor for peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region,” he added.

Carter noted the rim of the Pacific exercise, known as RIMPAC, which is underway now off the coast of Hawaii and involves the U.S Navy and 21 other nations’ sea forces. He said RIMPAC is a model of the U.S. Asia-Pacific strategy to further-strengthen partner nations’ military capabilities and build partnerships, alliances and friendships on which regional security and stability rests.

The deputy secretary noted that as President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta have outlined, the U.S. military’s focus will shift to the Asia-Pacific region as the last decade’s wars wind down.

The nation’s defense efforts have “understandably and justifiably” focused on Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, Carter noted. Battling terrorism and countering insurgency “are important things to do, and they’re important things to bring to an end,” he added.

The deputy secretary noted U.S. forces have concluded their mission in Iraq, and are within sight of ending combat in Afghanistan.

“We have a plan that is shared with all our coalition partners, to bring that down -- our activity in Afghanistan -- to an enduring presence starting in 2015,” he said.

Carter said by shifting to the Asia-Pacific resources that had been dedicated to Iraq and Afghanistan, the rebalance can succeed “within the constraints of the amount of money that the country is able to give us.”

President Obama and Panetta understand, he said, that as the era of Iraq and Afghanistan ends, “we need to lift our heads up out of the foxhole we’ve been in, look up, look around, and see what the problems … and the security opportunities … are, that will define our future.”

“Those challenges and those opportunities are, very importantly, in the Asia-Pacific region, which you now serve,” Carter told the troops. “So this is where our future lies, and you, right here, right now, are a very important part of … that great transition that this great military is embarked upon.”

Carter noted his visit to the region follows trips by the president, Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“I’m out here in their wake, to show that when they talked about rebalancing our security effort to the Asia-Pacific theater, that we aren’t just talking the talk, we’re walking the walk,” he said.

The deputy secretary said on his week-plus travels, “I’ll be looking at our relationships with those countries and implicitly with all of the other countries in this area, and saying, ‘What is it that I need to go back to Washington and make sure we’re doing on our end to hold up our bargain with you?’”

Carter told the Pacom troops aboard the USS Missouri this is “a period, it’s a moment in history, that you should always, as you go forward in your lives and your careers, keep in your mind. This was an important moment to be here, to be doing what you’re doing.”

Earlier today, Carter met at Pacom headquarters with Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, Pacom commander, and senior representatives of the command’s Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps components, who briefed him on current and future operations implementing the rebalancing strategy.

The deputy secretary’s next stop is Guam, where he is scheduled to meet with Governor Eddie Baza Calvo, Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo, other Guamanian leaders, and U.S. military leaders.

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