AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq --
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen recently visited service members and Iraqi military and political leaders, Dec. 19, 2009, in Al Anbar province, Iraq, the home of Multi National Force - West.
Mullen’s first destination in the province was Camp Ramadi, where he met with the governor of Al Anbar and one of the top Iraqi army leaders from the Anbar Operations Center.
Next, he moved to Al Asad Air Base, where a huge gathering of service members waited for him to open the United Service Organizations’ holiday show. After introducing stars Dave Attell, Anna Kournikova and Billy Ray Cyrus, Mullen headed to the Morale, Welfare and Recreation center for a town hall meeting with Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen of MNF-W.
“I have three very simple messages,” began Mullen. “One is great gratitude for who you are and what you do. I am all too aware of the sacrifices you have made to get to this point, and it’s my belief we’re on the verge here of a country that is taking itself back and providing for its own security, and as we said years ago, giving new hope and a new path to 26 million people who did not have that before.”
Mullen’s second message dealt with the changes that have occurred and will continue to occur for the U.S. armed forces.
“I always talk about change, because things are changing all the time, and leading in a time of change and at this pace of change is just extraordinarily difficult,” said Mullen. “There’s no better example than right here. As I look at the security in Anbar and at the transition we’re in, people are still nervous about it; they want to know if it’s going to work. I get asked about Americans staying longer, and we’re not, although I believe we will have a sustained relationship over the long-term with this country. Where we are here in transition is what we are headed for in Afghanistan.”
Lastly, Mullen put emphasis on military leadership.
“Leadership – there’s nothing more critical. As I look to the future, taking care of ourselves and our families, leading well is number one. We will have continued challenges for the future, and Afghanistan is certainly one, but I’m also starting to ask the question, ‘what’s after that,’ and what kind of military are we going to have?”
After hitting his three main points, Mullen fielded service members’ questions, including those about concerns with Iran, health care, strategy in Afghanistan and future relations with Iraq.
Before he closed out the town hall meeting, Mullen stressed his pride and gratitude for what service members have accomplished in Iraq.
“This is the best military I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a few, since I’ve been doing this for a long time … we’ve just never been better. Thanks for what you actually succeeded in – setting up for what is a great future for this country and its people.”