Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson
9:50 A.M. AKST
THE PRESIDENT: Wow. Thank you very much. So, we’re coming in and we’re landing and I say, “You know, I have a choice: I can stay on the plane and relax as we fuel up, right? As we fuel up.” Or, I said, “How good are they out there?” Somebody looked at me and said, “They’re the best.” You’re supposed to the best, right? You’re right on the front. (Applause.) I said, “All right, so let’s go.” Put on the tie. Put on the shirt.
But I wanted to be with you. And it’s an honor to be with you, I have to tell you. Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, right now, at ease. Let’s have a little fun, right?
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll have a little fun. Listen to you. You are something.
Well, I want to thank General Tom Bussiere for the introduction, and done a really great job. Highly respected man. I know the ones that are highly respected and I know we have some others. But usually when you get to general, you’re right up there. But he’s done a fantastic job. And, General, thank you very much. Appreciate it very much for the introduction.
And also, I want to thank all of the folks with the NORAD. And when we talk NORAD, we’re talking about big stuff. I learned so much about NORAD so many years ago, studying different things. You know, I love — I love this world.
And, actually, over here, my grandfather was up in Alaska for a long time. He was looking for gold. He was searching for gold. He didn’t find it, but he started opening up little hotels for those looking for gold, and it worked out. But he was up in — and maybe that’s why I’ve always had a very special place in my heart for Alaska.
And when election time came along, somehow the people of Alaska knew that and they voted very, very — it wasn’t even a little bit close. So I just really appreciated that always. And, you know, it’s a very special place.
And I don’t know if some of the folks — the military folks care about this, but the people of Alaska really care about it. I just approved, recently — and almost one of my earlier acts in office, ANWR, which is one of the largest deposits anywhere in the world. And for many, many years they’ve been trying to get it approved, since before Ronald Reagan. And they couldn’t get it done.
And we were just talking to your great governor. He is doing a very special job. And he said, “We really appreciate that you got that done.” And we got some other things done for Alaska too.
But when you look at that, ANWR is one of — if you’re in the oil industry you know a lot about ANWR. One of the most important finds anywhere. They just couldn’t do anything about it, but now we can. So that’s going to be great.
But I also — and I mentioned Mike Dunleavy. I just want to say he has been an incredible warrior. He ran an incredible campaign. He won easily. He’s not only one of the best governors in the United States; he’s definitely the largest. Where is Mike? Look at that man. He’s all man. Look at him. Congratulations, Mike, and thank you for being here.
He heard I was going to stop, and he got on a plane and he was able to get here. And that’s a great honor. It’s always nice though — when you endorse somebody, it’s always nice when they want to be there when you make a speech, right? And he’s always there. He’s there anyway and he’s done an incredible job for Alaska.
And I will tell you, in front of all of these great troops, I’ll say: Mike, anytime you have a problem, you call me. You know that, okay? And we’ll take care of it for Alaska. Right? You know that.
As you know, I’m on my way back from Vietnam. I wanted to stop here to share my gratitude to every brave soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, Coast Guardsman, and National Guardsman who serves in the “Land of the Midnight Sun.” What a beautiful term. It’s what it is, too.
It’s great to be standing in this hangar with an F-22 Raptor, the mighty sound of American freedom. That’s pretty good stuff, huh? (Applause.) That’s pretty good stuff. I’ll tell you, look at it. Even your fire engine looks pretty good, right? (Laughter.)
Well, the fact is, we’ve increased your budget from not too much to $700 billion. And then, from $700 billion, we went up to $716 billion. And I won’t tell you this year’s surprise, but the generals are going to be very happy when they hear because it’s going up yet again, because we have no choice. You know, I’m a cost cutter but we have no choice. Without a military, what do we have? We have to have a great military.
And you notice your equipment has been getting better and better, newer and newer? When I got in here, you were having jet fighters that were so old — you know, you heard the story — the grandfather flew some of the planes — some of the bombers. The grandfather, then the son, then the grandchild is here with us now. And I don’t like that. I don’t like that. So we’ve ordered massive numbers of new planes and new everything.
It’s just an honor to come by the joint base and be with you. I guess we call — we say “J-Bear,” right? J-Bear. (Applause.) That’s what — that’s what we want to do — J-Bear.
In 2017, our wonderful First Lady visited J-Bear and met with the children of deployed service members, and had a fantastic time. When she hear I was going to be here, she said, “Say hello.” And she’s been a really fantastic First Lady. Our military families are a true national treasure.
And without all of the people backing you brave men and women, you know, it wouldn’t work so well for you. Your life would be a lot more difficult. It wouldn’t be the same. You all know that. Maybe we should give them a round of applause, right? Come on. (Applause.) It’s true.
There are many incredible patriots to recognize here today, beginning with the outstanding Airmen of the 11th Air Force. Give yourselves a hand. (Applause.)
The Airmen of the 3rd Wing, and their Commander, Colonel Bob Davis. Bob, thank you. Thank you, Bob. Great. (Applause.) Is he doing a good job? Huh? Yes. They’re all saying “yes.” (Laughter.)
The 673rd Air Base Wing and your Base Commander, Colonel Patricia Chank. (Applause.) Thank you, Patricia. Thank you very much.
The soldiers from U.S. Army Alaska, and their Commander, Major General Mark O’Neil. Mark. Thank you, Mark. (Applause.)
And the paratroopers of the 4-25 Airborne Brigade Combat Team, the “Spartan Brigade,” and their Commander, Colonel Jason Jones. (Applause.) Colonel, thank you. Thank you, Jason.
Thank you as well to every warrior — and that’s what you are; you’re warriors — in the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. Finally, I want to thank all of the members of the Alaska National Guard who defend our nation against missile attack, and their Adjutant General, Brigadier General Torrence Saks. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, General. As well as Brigadier General Darrin Slayten — (applause) — Darren — thank you, Darren — Commander of the 176th Wing Alaska Air National Guard. Great job.
The men and women who serve at J-Bear share one vital mission: to serve in our country’s “Last Frontier” as America’s first line of defense.
Since the Second World War, our intrepid service members in Alaska have proudly stood at the “top cover for North America.” You are a powerful warning to the world to never strike American soil. You are a warning that everybody knows about and nobody wants to play with.
Here with us today are paratroopers of the Spartan Brigade who wear the maroon beret. Where are they? Where are they? (Applause.) They look pretty good. Should I wear one of those things? Huh? It’s good when it’s windy out, I’ll tell you. It’s good.
They recently returned from the Brigade’s third deployment to Afghanistan. And they’ve seen a lot. I’ve actually spoken to a couple, and I know how they feel. It’s going on for 19 years. Made a lot of progress, but 19 years.
We just took over — you know, you kept hearing it was 90 percent, 92 percent — the caliphate in Syria. Now it’s 100 percent. We just took over. A hundred percent caliphate. That means the area of the land. We just have 100 percent, so that’s good. We did that in a much shorter period of time than it was supposed to be. It was supposed to take — I won’t tell you what a certain general told me.
But I went and met a couple of other generals, and I said, “How long do you think it can take, General?” “One week, sir.” I said, “One week? I heard two years.” “One week, sir. Let us do it the way we want to do it.” I said, “General, do it.” And you saw what happened. Right? Everybody saw. We have the whole thing.
Among those with us is Sergeant Sean Rogers, who, a few weeks ago, received the Bronze Star for Valor. Where is Sean? Where is Sean? Sergeant Sean, around here someplace. Where are you, handsome devil? (Applause.) Come up here. Come up. Should I bring him up? I won’t bring the generals. (Applause.) I won’t bring the generals up, but come on, Sean, get up here. Don’t worry about Secret Service. You can take them, Sean. (Laughter.) Secret Service immediately runs up. (Laughter.)
SERGEANT ROGERS: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: You want to say something? Come on.
SERGEANT ROGERS: No, I’m fine, sir. (Laughs.) (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Listen, come on. Maybe he’s a natural politician.
SERGEANT ROGERS: Just thank you, I guess. (Laughs.)
THE PRESIDENT: Good job, right?
SERGEANT ROGERS: Yes, sir. (Applause.) Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
That was a good response, (inaudible). (Laughter.) Brave guy.
While he was in Afghanistan, Sean and his team occupied a rooftop and provided cover for a Special Forces team. Sean rushed into the enemy fire to rescue a member of his team, Specialist Gabriel Condy.
Now, I don’t know, is — let’s see, who else is here from that area, from that part, Sean? Anybody with you? Anybody else? Yeah. Okay.
Tragically, Specialist Condy did not make it alive. And, today, we remember the heroic sacrifice of this incredible American hero. We are eternally grateful in his debt.
And, Sean, I want to thank you and everybody else involved. But that’s really — really something. And we pay great respect. You know that.
To everyone here today who fights for our flag across the globe: Thank you for bravely facing down the danger to protect — and have such danger out there — the lives and liberty of all Americans. Our country is stronger now maybe than it’s ever been. Our military is being rebuilt at a rapid pace. Our economy is powerful. Our economy is probably as good as it’s ever been, or better.
Unemployment numbers are historic. You’ve been seeing black unemployment, African American unemployment — lowest levels in the history of our country. Hispanic unemployment — lowest levels in the history of our country. Lowest levels. Best they’ve ever been. Women — lowest in 61 years. Sixty-one years. Asian unemployment — lowest in history, history of our country. And we’re just doing great. We’re setting records.
The stock market is, right now, almost at an all-time high. I have about 18 records. It then went down a little bit because we had to a couple of trade deals, and people didn’t understand. Now they’re starting to say, “You know, that was pretty good. That’s good what he is doing.”
We’re negotiating now with China and others — Mexico, Canada. We’ve done those deals. They have to get approved by Congress. We’ll see what happens. Dealing with Congress is never easy. I don’t think they like me too much. (Laughter.) But they have to do — ultimately, they have to do what’s right. But I will say that you’re looking at a country now that’s doing better than ever.
And there’s something — it has to be — you’re protecting our country. You’re protecting us. And I would think it must feel good to know that the country is doing really well, as opposed to really badly, like it has done not so long ago. So you’re protecting something that’s very special.
All over the world, they’re talking about us. I go and I meet the prime ministers and presidents, and kings and queens, and they all say, “Mr. President, congratulations on your economy — especially on your economy. We’re trying to copy it, and it’s not working.” It’s just not working for other countries. Other countries are not doing well. And I want them to do well.
But China is way down. The EU is down. A lot of countries are very much down. Most of them. And we’re hitting new highs. So we’re doing a lot of things right, and you folks are a big reason for it.
Also with us today are the amazing people and airmen of the 673rd Air Base Wing. In the wake of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, which was just recent, and I remember seeing it. I said, “Boy, oh, boy. That’s a big one — 7.0.” Took place in November. They successfully restored airfield operations here at J-Bear in under one hour. That’s pretty quick.
Did you — what did you do to do that? That’s — well, number one, I gave you good equipment, right? Huh? (Laughter.) Safeguarding NORAD’s vital homeland security mission. Thank you for your incredible work. That’s incredible. I heard that you were up and running in about an hour. And it was pretty — you were hit hard.
Alaska hosts the largest combined training area for American air, ground, and maritime forces. You know the best way to Keep America safe is to keep America strong. And the stronger we get, the less likely it is that we’ll have to use that strength. Right, generals? It’s an incredible — it’s an incredible — we learned that in high school, we learned that way before high school. But the stronger you are, the stronger you can be, the less likely it is you’ll have to use that strength and that power. And that’s what we’re doing. We’re making you so strong. And soon, I can honestly say, strong like we’ve never been strong before.
That’s why, in the last two years, I’ve spent — when you think about it — over $1.5 trillion. Next year, the 11th Air Force, headquartered right here at J-Bear, will receive the first of 54 brand-new — never used before — F-35 fighter jets. You like them? (Applause.)
Well, for the pilots — you know, I’ve seen a lot of the pilots throughout the country when I stop at different places, and I say, “How do you like the F-35?” “We love it, sir.” “Well, how good is it compared to the enemy aircraft?” “Well, sir, you can’t see it.” I said, “Explain that to me.” “You know, it’s stealth.” It’s the stealthiest plane, by far, in the world. So they say, “Well, when we have battles, you can’t see it.” I said, “Huh, that would be tough.” Wouldn’t it be tough if you have somebody and you can’t see it?
So all I say is this: You get 54 brand new ones. I won’t tell you what they cost because it’s too much. (Laughter.) But it’s a lot of money. But they’re very special and you’re getting very special planes, and you’re getting a lot of them — 54. So they’ll be arriving here very soon.
And all of the generals, I hope you’re going to give them all to the best pilots, and you’re going to take good care of those planes and good care of those pilots. Right? Okay? It’s really an honor. But you’re getting a big, big number.
We’ll also deploy 20 more ground-based interceptors to Fort Greeley, which will further strengthen our missile defense system. So important. Missile defense system is also being rebuilt very substantially. And we’re going to have the latest and the greatest. Unfortunately, as soon as you have it, you have to redo it because, after about six months, everything becomes obsolete in this world. Right? We do that, they do this. We do that, they do this. It’s never ending. But that’s the way it goes. It’s a cycle.
Our goal is very simple: to ensure that we can monitor, detect, and destroy any missile launched against the United States, no matter what speed we’re talking about. Any missile.
We’re spending a tremendous amount of money now on missile technology and also missile defense technology, at my very strong urging. And what they’re able to do now is incredible. It’s like shooting a needle in the haystack. It’s incredible technology they have. And I said, “Upgrade it further and further. Advance it.”
America does not seek conflict, but if we are forced to defend ourselves, we will fight and we will win in an overwhelming fashion. That’s where we are.
We will forever be grateful for your service and your sacrifice. And we will always ensure that you have the tools, resources, and support you need to defeat our nation’s enemies and safeguard the freedoms given to us by Almighty God.
To everyone at J-Bear: We salute you. We thank you for your incredible service. We love you. God bless you. And God bless the men and women of the armed forces. God bless America. And thank you for doing such a fantastic job. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. (Applause.)
10:10 A.M. AKST