MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO --
Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates, addressed new Marines Aug. 13, during his visit to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
“It takes uncommon perseverance to make it through basic training – just as it takes uncommon patriotism to make the decision to join the military in a time of war,” said Secretary Gates. “But then, as you know, there is nothing common about being a Marine.”
During Secretary Gates’ visit here, he served as the parade reviewing officer for the graduating Marines of Company A, 1st Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, toured the recruit training facilities and conducted a press conference with local media.
Gates said he has seen the impact Marines have made while in difficult and dangerous conditions while on trips to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“For my part, I will do all I can to see that you have everything you need to accomplish your mission and come home safely,” said Gates. “Because I feel a deep, personal responsibility for and every one of you, as if you were my own sons.”
Following graduation, he observed recruits at the combat conditioning course, then spoke with them afterward.
“When I was at Camp Lejeune last year, an officer told me about one Marine unit whose next assignment was switched from Okinawa to Afghanistan. As a result, more than 100 Marines who had planned to get out of the Corps decided to re-enlist instead,” said Gates. “That tells you a few things about United States Marines, above all, that if there’s a fight somewhere, Marines want to be in it.”
Gates thanked them for volunteering to be Marines.
“As secretary of defense, one of the true pleasures of my job is visiting with the troops,” said Gates.
“Personally, it gave me chills knowing someone that high up in command came to talk to us recruits,” said Recruit Joshua D. Corral, Platoon 2101, Co. E. “It means a lot and is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity I will never forget.”
In regards to the campaign in Afghanistan, Secretary Gates told reporters that the surge is nearly complete, and added that his hope for Afghanistan is what happened in Iraq.
“Casualties were initially higher, but as we achieved success, the numbers declined significantly," he said.
Secretary Gates' visit followed his announcement Aug. 12 to cut $100 billion from the Defense Department budget over the next five years.
While in California, he also visited the Navy USS Higgins, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer which is a new, more mobile ballistic missile defense system for the future; the Naval Medical Center at Balboa Park in San Diego; and the Navy’s Special Operations Command, where 67 sailors were enduring what is known to be “Hell Week” at the Basic Underwater Demolition and SEAL training in Coronado, Calif.