Obama stopped at Elmendorf Air Force Base on his way to meetings in Asia. The president told the crowd that he has no greater honor than serving as commander-in-chief.
Obama told the servicemembers he will never hesitate to use force to protect the American people or the nation’s vital interests. “But I also make you this promise: I will not risk your lives unless it is necessary to America’s vital interests,” he said. “And if it is necessary, the United States of America will have your back. We’ll give you the strategy and clear mission you deserve. We will give you the equipment and support you need to get the job done – and that includes public support back home. That is a promise I make to you.”
The president praised servicemembers for their spirit and service in a time of war. “That’s a sense of responsibility on your part: The belief that the blessings we cherish as Americans are not gifts that we take for granted, they are freedoms that are earned,” he said. “It is your sense of unity – coming from every corner of he country, from every color and creed and every faith and every station – to take care of each other and to succeed together as Americans.”
The United States has the finest military in the world because the nation has the best personnel, the president said.
Obama thanked the servicemembers and their families for their sacrifices, noting that airmen from Elmendorf and soldiers from neighboring Fort Richardson are serving in harm’s way around the world.
The president assured servicemembers that the American people appreciate their sacrifices and they are grateful for their service. “They honor you,” he said, adding “just as you have fulfilled your responsibilities to your nation, your nation will fulfill its responsibilities to you.”
Obama detailed his commitment to servicemembers and their families. “We will make sure you can meet the missions we ask of you,” he said. He cited the increase in funding for the Air Force and Army in the recent Defense budget.
He also promised that the nation will have the right force structure, noting that his administration halted the downsizing of the Air Force and has increased the size of the Army.
“We will spend our defense dollars wisely,” he said. “We’re cutting tens of billions of dollars in waste in projects that even the Pentagon says it doesn’t need, money that’s better spent on taking care of you and your families and building the 21st century military we do need.”
As troops serve around the world, Obama promised to take care of the families at home. “Your family is a priority for our family,” he said. “We’re increasing pay, we’re increasing child care, we’re increasing support to help spouses and families deal with the stress and separation of war.”
Finally, the president vowed that the nation will be there for servicemembers when they come home. He pointed to care for those with traumatic brain injuries, or suffering from post-traumatic stress.
“We’re funding the Post 9/11 GI Bill because we want to give you and your families the chance to pursue your dreams,” Obama said. “We’re making the biggest commitment to our veterans – the largest percentage increase in the VA budget in more than 30 years.”
The country’s obligation to the military “is a sacred trust, that we are honor-bound to uphold” he said.
The president left here to fly to Japan for meetings with the new government there. He will then go to Singapore where to participate in the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, and meet with Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He then is scheduled to go on to China, where he will meet with President Hu Jintao. Finally, Obama is to visit South Korea where he will consult with President Lee Myung-bak.