JANUARY 19, 2021 – Vice President Mike Pence thanked the troopers of the 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum, New York, for their service around the world and said they will be coming back to the North Country.
Pence gave his last speech as vice president, yesterday, to the soldiers and families of the most deployed division in the U.S. Army.
“With thousands deployed every day, 10th Mountain brigades have served a combined 46 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan,” Pence said. “The first conventional units to deploy into Afghanistan after 9-11 came from right here at Fort Drum. The 2nd Brigade Combat Team and the 10th Sustainment Brigade are deployed in Afghanistan even as we speak.”
Units of the 10th were the first conventional units in Afghanistan and division units may be the last conventional forces that must deploy to the country, the vice president said.
“Your mission in Afghanistan has been vital to the security of the American people,” he said. “This year, we’ll mark 20 years since the forces of radical Islamic terror plotted and perpetrated the deadliest attack on the American homeland in the history of our country. From the safe haven of Afghanistan, the terrorists of al-Qaeda struck the United States.”
Because of their service in Afghanistan, there has not been another major terrorist attack on America in the intervening 19 years, he said. “And you’ve given the Afghan people the hope of freedom, a chance to determine their own destiny (and) to chart a better future,” he said. “Today, Afghans are in peace negotiations. I’m proud to report with gratitude to the 10th Mountain Division: Not a single American combat casualty has occurred in Afghanistan since February of last year.”
There are currently 2,500 U.S. service members in Afghanistan and 2,500 in Iraq.
Pence went on to describe the Trump administration’s efforts to make “the strongest military in the world, stronger still.”
America is the freest and strongest nation in the history of the world. You secure that freedom. And you are that strength.”
Vice President Mike Pence
He noted that the Trump administration inherited a military hobbled by readiness woes caused by sequestration and other budget cuts. The world in 2017 still had the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria controlling large swathes of Iraq and Syria. Iran was sponsoring terror groups throughout the Middle East. NATO nations were slow to live up to their pledge to budget 2 percent of gross domestic product to defense.
Budget cuts stopped ships from sailing, aircraft from flying and troops from training.
In 2021, this has changed. “With the support of our allies in Congress, we’re once again giving our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guard and guardians, the resources and the support that you need to accomplish your mission and defend this nation,” Pence said. “And we also provided the largest pay increase in the last 10 years, and you deserve every penny.”
The military is recovering from its readiness woes and “is now better equipped, better supplied, better trained than ever before,” the vice president said. “We’ve upgraded our tanks, artillery, our rocket systems, we bolstered our fleet of attack helicopters and fighter planes.”
U.S. leaders built on the U.S. commitment to convince allies to pay their fair share. “Since 2016, our NATO allies have increased their contribution to our common defense by more than $130 billion,” he said.
Pence reached back to Roman times for the truism of “If you want peace, prepare for war.” The United States has strengthened its national defense posture and is prepared to use that force in defense of America’s vital interests. “I’m proud to report with just a few days left in our administration, our administration is the first administration in decades that did not get America into a new war,” he said.
Pence thanked the troops for their accomplishments and willingness to sacrifice for others. “America is the freest and strongest nation in the history of the world,” he said. “You secure that freedom. And you are that strength.”
BY JIM GARAMONE, DOD NEWS