WASHINGTON, May 8, 2014 – As nations worldwide experience a period of unprecedented economic and political transformation, the world would be a more dangerous place without a strong U.S. military, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said during a town hall meeting at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois.
During the second stop on a two-day trip to Illinois, Hagel visited the Recruit Training Command School, where he discussed the current world situation and took questions.
“I don’t think we’ve seen such a time since right after World War II,” Hagel said. “And, again, the United States is an essential architect of this process.”
This process must continue at a time in which the nation must wisely use all of its resources, dimensions and instruments of influence and power, the secretary said. Though the big issues and challenges the world faces mostly cannot be solved militarily, Hagel said, the world becomes more dangerous without a strong, cutting-edge U.S. military that has the best-led, best-trained, best-educated and most-motivated people.
“And our options become fewer and fewer in helping build a better world for the first part of the 21st century,” he said.
Hagel said most service members, just as he does, focus on their day-to-day jobs and responsibilities. But occasionally, he added, it’s important to step back and take a broader view of the work they do and what the point of having a great military is. Great militaries always are integral to the influence and defense of a nation’s values, principles and interests around the world, he said.
“So I note that,” Hagel continued, “because it’s an area that I spoke about this morning in my speech to the [Chicago Council of Foreign Affairs], and in answer to some questions I got from our students there from the University of Chicago. You’re living in a historic time. You’re making history. You are doing something that few generations ever have the opportunity to do, and that is to truly transform things for a purpose. And that purpose is to continue to build a better world.”
Hagel said he wanted to express his appreciation to service members for their role in this transformation, and he encouraged the troops to keep doing what they’re doing.
The few hours he had spent at the naval station, Hagel said, gave him a good understanding of the importance of the Recruit Training Command School and what it means to the defense enterprise and the nation.
“I want to also thank you personally for what you do,” he said. “I know this is your job. I know this is something that you’re very good at, and you like to do it, and you’ve had other jobs. But I know it’s not easy. I know it’s tough on families. It’s a big sacrifice to do this, and I appreciate that.”