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Hagel to Thank Service Members on Last Official Domestic Trip

By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2015 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel next week will make his final official domestic trip to thank service members and their families across the country for the work they do every day to defend the nation, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.

Kirby said Hagel and his wife, Lilibet, will visit personnel from each service who support some of the nation’s most critical missions, including the ongoing rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, the nuclear enterprise, and ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The trip begins Jan. 13, and Hagel will stop first at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to meet with airmen of the 509th Bomb Wing who pilot and support the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, Kirby said.

Reforming the Nuclear Enterprise

“This will be the secretary's sixth visit to see the nuclear force,” Kirby added, “reflecting his commitment to reforming the nuclear enterprise and to keeping our nuclear deterrent safe, secure and effective.” The visit also is an important opportunity to highlight the present and future role of long-range bombers and America's ability to project power across the globe, the press secretary said.

From Whiteman, the secretary will fly to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California, “one of the bases that make San Diego the largest U.S. military and veteran community in America,” Kirby said.

Miramar is home to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and Kirby said the secretary looks forward to thanking the Marines there, including those who recently returned from Afghanistan and those who are preparing to deploy there to support Operation Inherent Resolve.

Supporting the Asia-Pacific Rebalance

On Jan. 14, Hagel will fly out to the amphibious assault ship USS America, one of the newest ships in the Navy fleet. The ship is undergoing predeployment workups off the Pacific coast.

“The America will be one of the first ships to deploy with an F-35B squadron,” Kirby said, “and her presence in the Pacific reflects the Defense Department's commitment to ensuring that our most advanced platforms support the rebalance.”

Current and Future Army NCOs

Hagel’s last stops will be Jan. 15, with visits to Fort Bliss, Texas, where he completed basic training in 1967, and White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the largest military installation in the country..

“As a former Army sergeant, the secretary is looking forward to returning to Fort Bliss to speak directly to the current and future leaders of the Army's noncommissioned officer corps,” Kirby said, including NCOs who are attending the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy.

At Fort Bliss, the press secretary added, Hagel will give his last major speech to the troops as defense secretary, “reflecting on the current state and the health of the force and on what the military and our entire nation must do to uphold our commitments to each other and to those who wear the uniform.”

The post’s headquarters is in El Paso, where a deadly shooting took place Jan. 5 at the El Paso Veterans Affairs health care clinic in which two people died: an unidentified victim and the shooter. Kirby said Hagel would not stop at the clinic, because “he wants to be mindful that he doesn't do anything to disrupt what we can assume is an ongoing investigation.”

But Kirby said Hagel is planning to meet with some of the first responders who were on the scene of that shooting and thank them for their good work.

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter @PellerinDoDNews)

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