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Rumsfeld Salutes Sailors at Great Lakes Training Base

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

NAVAL TRAINING CENTER GREAT LAKES, Ill., Nov. 16, 2001 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld flew today to this sprawling naval training facility to meet newly graduated recruits and to praise the Navy's efforts in the war against terrorism.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld reviews a recruit honor guard at the Naval Training Center Great Lakes, Ill. The secretary visited the base Nov. 16, 2001, and spoke at the recruits' graduation ceremony. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Rumsfeld, a former Navy aviator, congratulated 615 Navy "boot camp" graduates, calling them "outstanding young people." In service since 1911, Great Lakes is located just north of Chicago and is the Navy's largest training center, graduating about 55,000 recruits annually.

After directing the new sailors to stand "at ease," Rumsfeld noted that they are beginning their military service in time of war -- a global war on terrorism.

Like America's Navy after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, today's Navy "is coming to the rescue, again," he said. Navy ships are carrying U.S. aircraft to within bombing range of the enemy in Afghanistan, and Navy planes are imposing a price on those who cooperate with terrorists, he told them.

The new sailors will be defending more than just the honor of America -- a worthy mission in itself -- they also will be defending their parents, brothers, sisters, friends, other loved ones, and neighbors from terrorism, Rumsfeld said.

He noted that some of the new sailors "could soon be on a flight deck in the Arabian Sea, loading bombs on airplanes, refueling, fixing engines before the planes are catapulted off."

"Some of you may be preparing missiles to be launched at the enemy and destroying their deadly weapons," he added.

"I wish you fair winds and following seas. America is counting on you," he said to them. "May God bless each of you, and our country."

En route to Illinois on his plane, Rumsfeld spoke to reporters about Afghanistan, noting that Al Qaeda troops, many of them non-Afghan, seem to have chosen to battle opposition forces in places like Konduz rather than surrender.

The Taliban, having "rejected every one of President Bush's proposals (to surrender bin Laden), has clearly cast its lot with Al Qaeda," he added.

U.S. military and coalition air strikes continue to hit Al Qaeda and Taliban forces and assets, Rumsfeld noted on the plane. He then showed reporters a photo of some U.S. special operations troops in Afghanistan riding horses and another picture of a pack donkey used to carry equipment in their travels around the country.

After the recruit graduation ceremony, Rumsfeld participated in a press conference with many Chicago-area reporters.

U.S. special operations ground forces operating in Afghanistan have done a good job directing air strikes against Taliban and Al Qaeda targets, Rumsfeld noted.

Responding to a reporter's question regarding stories that a senior Al Qaeda leader -- not Osama bin Laden -- had been killed, Rumsfeld said he'd also read some reports but had to add.

"Do I know for a fact that that's the case? I don't," Rumsfeld told the reporter. However, he added, "The reports I've received seem authoritative ... he was very, very senior, number-two, something like that." Rumsfeld remarked that U.S. and coalition forces continue to search for bin Laden.

"I suspect he is still in the country," he said. "Needless to say, if we knew his whereabouts, we would have him."

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