USS PELELIU --
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta got a taste of life on ship today when he arrived on a landing craft air cushion and paid a visit to the Marines and sailors of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the USS Peleliu.
During his visit, Panetta toured the ship, had lunch with Marines and sailors, re-enlisted and pinned awards on several service members, and held a brief press conference with the media. Panetta came to visit the Marines and sailors to reinforce his commitment to maintaining an expeditionary fighting force.
“The [MEU/Amphibious Ready Group] is what we need for the future,” said Panetta. “This is about agility, this is about being able to move quickly, this is about being flexible. It is about doing the things you do right here from this ship. This is the future and that is why I wanted to come here. It is important for me to tell you how important you are to our strategy,” added the 23rd secretary of defense.
Panetta further described his strategy as it involved maintaining a strong defense for the U.S.
“We have to develop a strategy that ensures we maintain a strong defense for this country,” said Panetta. “We are not going to let budgets drive defense strategy. We’re going to develop a strategy and then base our budget decisions off of that.”
The Marines and sailors were excited to have a visitor aboard their home away from home.
“It was an honor to listen to what the secretary of defense had to say,” said Cpl. Garrett E. Vance, radio operator, Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th MEU. “I was very interested to hear first hand what his plans were for the military,” added the 21-year-old native of Boise, Idaho.
Vance was not the only service member in attendance excited about the secretary of defense’s visit.
“I have never heard anything like that before,” said Pfc. Myles D. Marshall, rifleman, Kilo Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 15th MEU. “It was definitely motivating to have him come out and talk to us,” added the 19-year-old native of Syracuse, N.Y.
The visit, however, was more than just a motivational tool. It also taught the service members a lesson on leadership.
“There was a lot of value behind this visit,” said Sgt. Adriana G. Obogeanu, fiscal chief, Command Element, 15th MEU. “Great leaders make time to visit with their subordinates, and that is exactly what happened here today,” added the Romanian native.
Panetta was grateful to all the service members for their service, and made a point to communicate it to them through his actions and his speech.
“I want to thank all of you for your service,” he said. “Navy, Marines all of you have dedicated your life and you are giving something back to this country. You have, through your dedicated service, time and time again, responded to everything we ask you to do. And for that I thank you. I thank you for your service your dedication your commitment your willingness to put your life on the line.”
He finished with letting the Marines and sailors know what a valuable asset they are in today’s military.
“The most important part in our defense is not our ships, not our weaponry, not our great planes or helicopters. The best thing we have in the U.S. military is our people. The men and women in uniform that are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to keep this country safe.”
The 15th MEU is currently training for a deployment scheduled for this summer.