AL ASAD, Iraq -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld visited service members at Al Asad, Iraq, Dec. 9.
With the last few remaining days of his second term and the yearlong deployment of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) coming to a close, Rumsfeld spoke with more than 400 men and women from various units deployed to the air base.
"As I complete my second tour, I leave with understanding the true strength of the U.S. military," Rumsfeld said to the troops. "It's in the hearts of the men and women who serve, the appreciation, the professionalism. There's not been a day since our country has been in this long struggle that I've not thought about those of you deployed far from home … I wish it were possible for every American to see first hand all that you do everyday, the lives you touch and the lives you save."
During his stay at Al Asad, he also stopped by the hangar of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd MAW, to speak with the Marines and sailors there.
Rumsfeld, being the youngest person in U.S. history to serve as the Secretary of Defense during his first term and the oldest one during his current term, took the time to meet several of the individual service members and have his photo taken with them.
He was succeeded by Robert Gates on Dec. 6, 2006, but until the formal swearing-in ceremony takes place, the 21st Secretary of Defense will remain in office.
Disclaimer -- Photos associated with the article can be found at the following links:
1 - http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/20061210102146
2 - http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/20061210102319
3 - http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/20061210103040
4 - http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/20061210102755
5 - http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/20061210102529