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Presenter: Secretary of Defense Ash Carter December 19, 2015

Remarks by Secretary Ash Carter Aboard the USS Kearsarge

STAFF: How you doing, Marines? I know you know who the secretary of defense is. He's someone who really needs no introduction. But we're very privileged, Mr. Secretary, that you're here today, that you've taken some of your valuable and very busy time to be with us. So, thank you very much. (Applause.)

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: Don't clap for me. Basically, I'm here to clap for you. That's the point. I'm delighted to be here and so, so proud of you. And I got two things to say. The first is -- well, first of all, let me thank General Mundy. I know that Ambassador (inaudible) is around here. There he is. (inaudible) of course, is my -- I've actually known for quite a while. Great guy (inaudible) down here. And I don't know who else is around, but to all my hosts, thank you.

But thing one is to you, to you all. I want you to know that you are what I wake up to every morning. You're what I think about all day. I'm so proud of you and100 percent, 1,000 percent behind you. We -- it's holiday time, so one of the reasons for my being here was to say from my family to your families, thank you. This is my wife, Stephanie, up here. She was able to come with me this time. She can't usually travel with me but we wanted you to know that we understand that military life is a family affair, and you all are away from your families. And you're away from your families doing the noblest thing you can possibly do with your life, which is protect our people and make a better world for our children.

And, you know, they're all going to get -- open their presents under the Christmas tree and hug their kids and spend the day together and do all the things that make life full for human beings. And that's what people deserve. You know, they can't do that if they don't have security. So you provide them with the -- with security. Without that, you can't live life. And so it's the most important thing you could possibly be doing with your lives. And I hope that you take some satisfaction from that and that your family is proud of you and what you're doing and that that's some consolation that you're not going to be with them in this holiday season.

So, please, happy holidays to you and to them from the depths of our hearts. I say here not just for myself, but for the whole departmental family. We're one big family. And I certainly speak for America, too. They're proud -- they don't always know what you're doing. They're not as aware as they should be. But if they really think about it, they know they can't be doing what they're doing without you.

Second thing I wanted to tell you is how important your mission right here, right now is. This is one of the most important parts of the world for our security. And you're doing not just one thing or two things. You've got several things going out here, the kinds of missions that you're involved in. We have two big challenges out here. The first is ISIL, which has to be defeated. It has to be defeated quickly. And one of the reasons I'm here in this region -- I've been in Iraq, I've been in Turkey, and I've been in Afghanistan and so forth, and now out with you and other forces here in the region, is to accelerate our campaign to defeat ISIL.

I'm confident we'll do it. No question we'll do it. But we want to win as fast as we can, and we have to beat them in Iraq and in Syria, because that's where the cancer started. And then we'll fight them all the way around the world, wherever they spread to, but we've got to start right here and beat them and beat them fast. And we're going to do that -- it's not just us. We have other great partners out here. But, of course, they're all counting on us, because we're the strongest and we stand for the things that other countries want to follow. So we're a natural leader, both because of our strength and because of our values.

Second challenge we have out here is Iran. We have an agreement with Iran covering their nuclear weapons, which was a good thing and good agreement, and it's being implemented, but we still have challenges with respect to Iran's malign activity and the need to deter aggression here in this region.

You have also to protect freedom of navigation out here, to protect Americans out here, and conduct operations if necessary to protect our fellow forces and our fellow citizens who are doing the American missions out here in this part of the world. So you got a lot to do. We're counting on you to do a lot. The Kearsarge is a kind of multi-purpose tool that is so perfect for all of the missions that we need to accomplish, so you should know and tell your family this, too. You are right here, right now in one of the hinges of history. And, of course, America will make it, as it always has, and you'll have been part of it. You'll be able to look back in the years to come and say, 'I was part of that great and noble mission.'

I'm proud of each and every one of you. There are a few of you who are going to get special recognition today, and that's great, and I'm going to meet them, also. But to me, you're all spectacular. And I'm proud of each and every one of you. And I want to tell you that in person and look you in the eye, so after we do the awards ceremony, we'll come up, I'll give you a coin, an Ash Carter coin. Still has the reasonable market value. And I'll look you in the eye and tell you thank you, and pass it on to those who love you and let them know that it's from me and the whole DOD family.

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