At the start of an eight-day trip focusing on the rebalance to
the Pacific, Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited troops in Alaska
and highlighted the strategic importance of that state.
main thing I want to tell you is thank you. Thank you for what you
do for our country. We don't take it for granted, and I don't take
it for granted either," he said Friday at Fort Wainwright.
"You are at the hinge of a lot of what's important strategically,
and what's happening strategically," he told military and civilian
Alaska is a key location for DoD because of its
proximity to Asia and the Arctic, he said.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks with soldiers and airmen during a visit to Fort Wainwright, Alaska, Oct. 30, 2015. During the trip, which includes the Asia-Pacific theater, the secretary will meet with leaders from more than a dozen nations across East Asia and South Asia to help advance the next phase of the U.S. military's rebalance in the region by modernizing longtime alliances and building new partnerships. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)
"That's a two-way street, so it means that everything that could
affect us comes over or by or near Alaska, and that puts you at the
center of an awful lot," he said.
region is of great consequence to the future of the United States,
"more than any other single area in the whole world," Carter said.
Carter, who also visits Korea and Malaysia during this tour,
credited the U.S. military for helping maintain peace and security
in the region.
"One of the reasons why it's not in the
headlines is because of you and what you stand for," he said. "You
stand for 70 years of the United States being the pivotal power in
the Indo-Asia-Pacific region."
The good climate has allowed
prosperity to occur, he said. "We aim to keep that up. That's what
the rebalance is all about."
Carter commended the soldiers
for taking part in the Pacific Pathways exercises with partner
countries. He described the endeavor as a "great innovation" to
situate the Army at the center of the strategic transition.
The soldiers just returned from a Pacific Pathways deployment to
Korea, Japan and Mongolia and are preparing for additional training
with Asian armies this year.
The Air Force, Carter said, has
an important role to play in the rebalance, noting the service has
aircraft based in Alaska that are some of the quickest responders to
contingencies in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
In a question and answer session with the troops,
Carter outlined his priorities and concerns, including fighting
sexual assault in the military and preventing suicides.
priorities included defeating Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
and enabling capable and motivated local forces.
secretary highlighted other areas of concern as Russian aggression,
Iran and the Middle East, and responding to humanitarian crises.
China is a large trading partner with the United States, Carter
said, but efforts are needed to maintain relations.
isn't kept automatically. We have to work at it all the time, and
that's true with respect to a country like China," he said.
By Lisa Ferdinando
DOD News / Defense Media Activity
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