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Remarks by Secretary Hagel at a Troop Event at Powidz Air Base, Poland

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel; Polish Minister of Defense Tomasz Siemoniak
January 31, 2014

POLISH MINISTER OF DEFENSE TOMASZ SIEMONIAK (through translator): Mr. Secretary of Defense of the United States of America, ladies and gentlemen.

Let me welcome you to the air-base in Powidz as an honorary guest. First and foremost, please feel at home here. For two reasons at least, first because Powidz is the place and symbol of the Polish-American military cooperation where Polish and American soldiers are standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Secondly, because your family roots are deriving from the Wielkopolska region. So welcome home.

Behind us is standing a symbol of cooperation, the F-16. And I would like to say that the bulk of the Republic of Poland greatly appreciates this cooperation of the alliance.

Thank Mr. Secretary (inaudible) to hear the same words from our Polish president, Mr. Bronislaw Komorowski, and the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk. But what is even more important than these wonderful, formidable things, are the people. We thank all the present here Polish and American pilots for their great cooperation. And we very much believe it's going to depend in the common years.

That the American and the Polish forces indeed are very welcome here.

(UNKNOWN): Thank you Minister. And now, Mr. Secretary, please take the floor.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: Minister, thank you. I am grateful for the opportunity to be here today to first wish you all well, and to thank you, all of you. The Polish and American military joined in common purpose, with common cause.

I wish to also thank the minister for his courtesy over the last two days. As he noted, I met the president and prime minister this morning and we talked about and reaffirmed our partnership and our long friendship.

What you are doing here is important. It's important for our two countries, it's important for NATO. It's important for freedom, and it is a significant symbol for the world.

It is significant that our two countries, working side by side in this effort at this place, serves as an example and will continue to be a standing opportunity for more jointness and more exercises and more opportunities to work together.

Powidz represents many things. It represents friendship between our two countries. That friendship includes our families. And for our American families who are here and their host families, our friends from Poland, we thank you, and we recognize both of your families for what they do. The sacrifices they make for our countries and for our efforts.

I would add that I saw President Obama this week. He knew I was coming here, and he asked me to bring his greetings, express his appreciation, and to extend his appreciation and greetings to our Polish hosts.

On a more personal note, as the minister has mentioned, my mother's family is from this part of Poland. And when I leave here in a few minutes, I'm going to a little village, Kiszkow, where my great-grandparents were married.

So I feel very familiar here, and very comfortable here.

Thank you for allowing me some time today, and allowing me the opportunity to thank you both - the Americans, for what you do, and our Polish friends, we are proud of both of you. We are proud of your individual efforts as well as your joint efforts.

I wish you continued success, take care of yourselves, have a very productive 2014. We're proud of you. Thank you.

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