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Remarks by Secretary Hagel and Minister Ya'alon at a Troop Event at Hatzor Air Force Base

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel; Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon4
May 15, 2014

STAFF: Ladies and gentleman, it is my honor and privilege to tell you, thank you for being here today as we kick off JC14 and the exercise itself. We have -- besides yourself here, we have numerous general officers from the Israeli forces and also from the United States forces. And I'd like to just take a moment to thank them for their leadership and all of the things that they have done. I'd like to formally recognize the Ambassador David Shapiro, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel for his support in this exercise. And also, I'd like to formally recognize the minister, Israeli Minister of Defense, Moshe Ya'alon, for his participation here also and for making this exercise happen.

If I may, I'd just like to have the opportunity and the honor to introduce our secretary of defense. He is the first enlisted combat veteran to lead the United States Department of Defense. He served in the Army's Ninth Infantry Division as an infantry squad leader in Vietnam, earning two Purple Hearts. He was elected senator of Nebraska from 1996 to 2009. It is my privilege and honor to introduce the 24th Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. (Applause.)

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: General, thank you. And to each of you, thank you. At ease. First, let me give my appreciation and thanks to the defense minister of Israel, who is a good friend and a strong, strong supporter and leader of this partnership, our friend Minister Ya'alon. Moshe, thank you. And thank you for accompanying me here today. Also to General Eberhart, thank you for your continued service. General Shohot for your leadership, as well as the other leaders here today, all who contribute so much to this effort, this partnership. I know our American troops are from all over, different bases and I know some have come from Germany.

So, to the American troops, thank you. We're very, very proud of what you're doing. It's important work and an important time. To our Israeli members here, thank you for what you're doing and for your efforts in building this partnership. You know, this business is -- is about three things, defending your country, and helping to build a peaceful world -- it's people. Because it wouldn't happen without people, no matter how sophisticated the technology and the system. So to each of you who represent the most important component of -- of that triad, the people, thank you again.

It's also about capability. We must assure that our people are not only capable, but have the most significant capacity of any force in the world. And we're all committed to do that. And the third element that makes this work is partnership. And this is a pretty clear demonstration of, not just effective, relevant, important partnerships, but timely partnerships. When the world is full of great opportunities, it's also full of great threats. And those threats continue to become more complicated. You all know that. That's why you are essentially pioneers in building missile defense capabilities and capacity. As you integrate the services and each other, and you learn from each other building a stronger partnership and you build relationships, personal relationships, as well as professional relationships.

I say that because I think sometimes we take all of that for granted. That we're so committed and connected to our -- our day-to-day mission in life, which we must be. But we should not forget all of the other components that make it work. It's the glue that makes it work. So to each of you, thank you. And to your families, thank you. You are defining an important time in our world as we go forward. This is as complicated and dangerous a part of the world as -- as there is. And what you're doing as you build for the future, and give people hope for that future, is one of the most important assignments any of us can ever have in our lifetime. So, thank you for doing that. I know you're proud of what you're doing. We're very proud of you. Take care of yourselves, thank you. (Applause.)

MINISTER MOSHE YA'ALON: Chuck. We are here to witness what we are talking about when we claim about the unshakable bond between the U.S. as the greatest democracy all over the world, and the state of Israel, the only democracy in our tough neighborhood, the Middle East. And what is demonstrated here, U.S. soldiers, Israeli soldiers, officers (inaudible) working together, exercising together, dealing with the threat, which is one of our challenges in our country, how to intercept rockets and missiles coming from Iran, Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip. We've got a challenge, but we can cope with it.

And we can cope with it as we cooperate together, collaborate together, learning from each other, developing systems to defend our interests. And that’s the best demonstration of how two countries defend their interests, but defend also their values. So, thank you very much, Chuck, for your personal commitment to this unshakable bond. And thank you for -- each of you, American troops, Israeli troops, for exercising together. In this exercise, General Shohot, it is the best demonstration of our strategic relations. Thank you. (Applause.)

STAFF: While we have a captive audience, I understand that there may be some questions. So, if you would, please step to the mike if you have some for the -- the defense secretaries, please?

Q: Sir, good afternoon. I am Lieutenant Colonel Dave Shank. I am the 1-43-ADA Battalion Commander out of Fort Bliss, Texas representing the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command. Sir, with the planned drawdown in Afghanistan at the end of this year, the current troops forward deployed in the CENTCOM AOR [Central Command Area of Operations], which now most recently, last summer includes the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the addition of the six NATO units in Turkey and the challenges we see in Ukraine, how are we encouraging or dialoguing with our -- our NATO partners and our European allies to help deter, or help set those conditions, as we also discuss the drawdown of the -- of the American forces? Thank you, sir.

SEC. HAGEL: Yes, thanks Colonel and thanks for your leadership. We are constantly working to enhance and strengthen our NATO partnerships, working with them as they do more. This is an important part of building capacity around the world. One nation does not have the capacity, no matter how great the nation, to be able to deal with these global challenges alone. We sorted that out after World War II when we built NATO and we built other collective security institutions, as well as other institutions, the United Nations and general agreements on tariffs and trade. But NATO has been the centerpiece, it's been the anchor for collective security.

As the challenges have become essentially borderless, which we see here in this region of the world, it's going to be more and more important that our partners increase their capability, their capacity as they are now, as we are seeing what we're doing in Eastern Europe with our NATO partners to face some of these -- these new challenges. So, it is really, I think to the point again here what we're doing, what you're doing in Juniper Cobra, is building the capacity of partnerships here in Israel with the U.S./Israel partnerships. Because these threats and challenges are common to all of us. They know no borders. They know no boundaries.

So it's a specific focus for us to continue to work with and build capacity with -- with our partners and in particular, your specific question about NATO. Thank you.

Q: Thank you, Sir.

Q: Major (Inaudible) of the 167 Air Defense Wing in the (inaudible). My question, sir, as an active defense officer, I understand the great importance of the combined active defense deployment and the combined training as we do here in -- in the exercise, especially considering the surrounding, evolving threats. And my question I would like to ask you is, how do you think we will keep our combined readiness in the upcoming years in more exercises and more deployments?

SEC. HAGEL: Well you have just noted, much of the -- of the core building capacity in strengthening partnership is joint exercises and training. We will do more. We'll find more opportunities, more ways to do it. For example this exercise each year expands in its possibilities, expands in its objectives. That's partly because our capabilities increase, our capacities increase. But we'll -- we'll work off of the existing exercises, as we have known them, over the last few years, not just this joint exercise to build and frame up more training possibilities, more exercise capacities. Therefore, integrating more of our resources, and consolidating more and more of our own -- of our joint capacity into a single focus on addressing these common challenges.

So, it's a core part of -- of strengthening partnerships. And we'll continue to do that. We're committed to do it, and I know your country is as well. And your -- your defense forces are as well.

Q: Thank you, sir.

SEC. HAGEL: Thank you. Okay, thank you very much. (Applause.)

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