National Archives This is historical material “frozen in time”. The website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work.

Military Facility in the Middle East

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you for that warm welcome. And at ease, ladies and gentlemen. To General Robinson, Chief Hedden, Colonel Quirk, and to the men and women of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, Red Tails —

AUDIENCE: Spit fire!

THE VICE PRESIDENT: — it is my great honor — great honor to join you here today in the midst of your efforts to fly and fight on this front line. You are the heroes of Operation Inherent Resolve. Give yourselves a round of applause! (Applause.)

My wife Karen and I couldn’t leave the Middle East without first coming by to see all of you on this important frontier. And we bring you greetings from your Commander-in-Chief and a tireless champion of the Armed Forces of the United States, the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)

You know, the President asked me to come by here just to give you a simple message — to tell you he’s proud of you; to tell you that you’re on the hearts and on the minds of all of the American people. And we’re here today to tell you that your nation is thankful for your service, more thankful than you’ll ever know.

You know, many people wonder all their lives if they’ve made a difference. But you will never have that problem. The Armed Forces of the United States are the world’s greatest force for good, and you chose to be a part of that greatest force. (Applause.) You chose to do your part in our time to keep lit and to defend the flame of freedom, and hand it on to generations yet to come.

As the Old Book says, “You did not love your lives so much as to shrink” from this calling. And you have your Commander-in-Chief and my deepest respects for your courage and for your valor.

The truth is, you’re the best of us — heroes all. And this unit in particular has a special place in the hearts of the American people and in the history of our nation.

The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing is steeped in the heritage of freedom. Your story, as the General just alluded, stretches back more than three quarters of a century to the Tuskegee Airmen, who broke down barriers in the Air Force and flew for freedom in the Second World War.

To this day, in the 332nd, “the legacy continues.” And now, as then, the men and women of this remarkable unit soar across the skies in defense of our people and our most precious values.

And I stand before you today, on this frontier — let me assure you: President Donald Trump has your back, Red Tails. (Applause.) In fact, I believe when the history books are written, it will show that this President was the best friend the Armed Forces of the United States have ever had.

Since the first day of our administration, we’ve fought tirelessly to make the strongest fighting force in history stronger still. In the first few months in office, President Trump signed the largest increase in military spending in nearly 10 years. And just last month, he signed one of the largest investments in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan, including the largest pay raise for military members in eight years. (Applause.)

And across the board, we’re keeping our promise to rebuild our military, restore the arsenal of democracy. And we’ll continue to fight every day to give each and every one of you airmen, and our soldiers, and our sailors, our Marines, and our Coast Guard the resources and training you need to accomplish your mission and come home safe. We’re fighting for you every day because we know you’re fighting in this frontier for the safety and security of the American people.

As President Trump has said, “Only when the good are strong will peace prevail.” And we admire and are grateful for your strength.

In fact, that’s what brings up to this place at this time. You’re here, so far away from home, because the battle lines of freedom stretch across these ancient lands. As the warfighters of Operation Inherent Resolve, you’ve answered the call to confront, and defeat, the embodiment of evil in our time — the barbarians known as ISIS.

It’s remarkable to think three-and-a-half years ago, those brutal terrorists proclaimed the start of a 1,000-year caliphate — a caliphate they promised would soon spread from Syria and Iraq across the wider world. In service of this apocalyptic vision, the murderers of ISIS have shown a savagery unseen in the Middle East since the Middle Ages. They enslaved women and children. They slaughtered the followers of any faith that differed from theirs. They inspired attacks on our allies and even on our homeland, and claimed the lives of fellow citizens.

By its actions and by its ideology, ISIS has shown itself to be the enemy of America and of freedom-loving nations across the wider world. And so we resolved to confront this enemy with all of our might. And because of your courage and valor and professionalism, we are driving the evil of ISIS from the face of the Earth. (Applause.)

The men and women of the 332nd have been the instruments of American power in this fight, in this region. You’re the sword that struck our enemy, and the shield that protects our families and our freedom.

And under the leadership of this Commander-in-Chief, you’ve taken the fight to ISIS — on our terms, on their soil. And thanks to your courage and your relentless pursuit of victory, ISIS is on the run.

You’ve fought and flown alongside our coalition partners, striking ISIS again and again. You’ve given those terrorists no quarter. You’ve driven them from their strongholds. And thanks to your heroic actions, ISIS has been crushed; their so-called caliphate has fallen and crumbled. We’ve retaken the capital of that so-called caliphate. And you have liberated more than 90 percent of their territory and freed more than 7.5 million people from their terrorist grip. (Applause.)

And I will promise all of you that have done the work and are in the fight at this very hour: We will not rest, we will not relent, until we hunt down and destroy ISIS at its source, so it can no longer threaten our people, our allies, or our way of life. (Applause.)

As the President has said, we will be finished with ISIS very soon. And he’s ordered the Armed Forces of the United States to remain engaged in the fight against our terrorist enemies in Syria, in Iraq, and across the wider region. I believe, because of your valor, the day will come when ISIS, al Qaeda, and radical Islamic terrorism are no more than a distant memory. Their defeat will be a lasting monument to the unconquerable spirit of the Armed Forces of the United States.

And we will not waver in our resolve to confront the leading state sponsor of terrorism, the dictatorship in Iran. You know, Iran hopes to become the dominant power in the Middle East, by expanding its influence amidst the ruins of ISIS’s former territory. The ayatollahs in Tehran ultimately hope to threaten America’s allies across the wider region. But President Trump has put Iran on notice.

The United States of America will no longer tolerate Iran’s attempts to spread its malign influence or strengthen terrorists across this region. (Applause.) And as President Trump has made clear, the United States of America will never allow Iran to acquire a usable nuclear weapon. That is our promise to our allies and to the world. (Applause.)

The security of our nation and the safety of our people depends on the stability of the Middle East. And so, American power will continue to be the strong hand in this corner of the world. And you will be that strength.

As you stand a post, I want you to know that your Commander-in-Chief, and all of the American people, are behind you 100 percent. And nothing that happens in our nation’s capital will ever change that.

I’m sure you’re all aware of what’s going on in Washington, D.C. Despite bipartisan support for a budget resolution, a minority in the Senate has decided to play politics with military pay. But you deserve better. You and your families shouldn’t have to worry for one minute about whether you’re going to get paid as you serve in the uniform of the United States.

So know this: Your President, your Vice President, and the American people are not going to put up with it. (Applause.) We’re going to demand that they re-open the government. In fact, we’re not going to re-open negotiations on illegal immigration until they re-open the government and give you, our soldiers and your families, the benefits and wages you’ve earned. (Applause.)

Just as each of you will do whatever it takes to defend our country, just know that President Trump and I will do whatever it takes to defend you and your families. That said, you can be confident we’re going to get this fixed. We’re going to meet our obligations to you and your families. And we’re going to make the strongest fighting force in the history of the world stronger still.

So I urge you, on behalf of your Commander-in-Chief, set aside any distractions, mind your mission, take care of one another, and never doubt that every day, every operation, every decision that you make matters to your country more than you’ll ever know.

You know, it’s deeply humbling for me to stand before a group of men and women like you. My life never took me into the uniform of the United States. You know, I’m the proud son of a combat veteran from Korea and the proud father of a United States Marine. But the course of my life didn’t lead me into military service.

But I know — I know that your service comes with sacrifice. I know the sacrifices that you and your families make, and the burdens that you bear. But I want to assure you today that you and your families do not bear that burden alone. As you stand here in this distant land, I can promise you that your President, and a grateful nation, stand behind you.

You are the strength and the pride of the American people. And whether you soar in the skies above, or support those who do here on the ground, just know that every day, in homes large and small, around dinner tables and at gatherings, and at places of worship and in quiet moments, the American people are breathing a prayer for each and every one of you, giving thanks for your courage and asking God for your protection.

And I truly believe, as long as we have men and women like you, with the courage to step forward and serve, as long as we have heroes willing to put your lives on the line, as long as we have patriots like all of you to defend our nation, I know our country will be safe, our freedom will be secure, and the future of the greatest nation on Earth and the best days for the greatest nation on Earth are yet to come.

So may God watch over the men and women of the 332nd. May God protect you and bless you. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Thank you. (Applause.)