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Secretary of Defense gets an upclose tour of JBLM

Boss thanks the troops

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter addresses select servicemembers at McChord Field, Friday. Photo credit: Gail Wood

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First, he said thanks.

Then Ashton Carter, the first Secretary of Defense to visit Joint Base Lewis-McChord since 2008, said "be ready."

"There are no other countries that has forces that are as strong, as decent as you are. I'm proud as heck of you all," Carter told about 145 military servicemen, ranging from Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy.

After his 15-minute talk from a large hangar and with a massive C-17 Globe as a backdrop, Carter then shook hands with every one of them.

"You talk to your family, your kids, your parents, tell them that the Secretary of Defense and our entire country thanks you," said Carter, who spent Friday touring JBLM. "And that you, right now, right here, are part of strategic history. We're extremely proud of you."

With JBLM's focus shifting more from the Middle East to the Pacific, Carter told the military servicemen to be prepared for a crisis in Asia. North Korea and China are both growing trouble spots.

"Always out there, on my mind every day, you would be part of the force that would respond to a crisis on the Korean Peninsula," Carter said.

While there are no major combat operations currently taking place, Carter emphasized the role JBLM has in ending the threat of ISIS and ISIL.

"We will defeat ISI;, we have to defeat ISIL," Carter said. "I'm confident that we will. But we need to get on with it."

JBLM, the largest base on the West Coast, will remain a pivotal player on the ground, in the air and in cyberspace in the country's fight against world threats to peace.

During Carter's visit of JBLM, he was given updates on the capabilities of the forces stationed at the base. He said JBLM will play a pivotal role in the shift in focus to the Asia-Pacific region.

Carter, who was sworn in as the 25th Secretary of Defense in February 2015, also looked at I Corps Headquarters for an update on Pacific Pathways, which is the Army's primary method to build readiness from tactical through theater levels.

Worldwide, Carter said the reception and the perception of the U.S. military is positive, supportive and appreciative.

"That's a huge strength of the U.S.," Carter said. "We want friends because then we don't have to do it alone."

During Carter's tour of JBLM, he also visited a display of Army and Air Force equipment, which included a C-17 Globemaster, a Stryker vehicle, a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System vehicle, and vehicles and equipment from the 1st Air Support Operations Group and the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron.

With Microsoft and other high technology industries in the region, Carter said JBLM is in a prime position to lead the Nation in the cyberspace battle. Carter's purpose of his visit was to talk with soldiers and airmen directly and to get a chance to find what they do and what he can do to better defend the country.

In his plan, JBLM remains a key player.

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