Fort Bragg, North Carolina

3:46 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you all.  Thank you for that warm welcome.  To General Quintas, General Howell, General McKiernan; to Congressman Hudson; to all the extraordinary men and women who serve in the United States Army and the Joint Special Operations Command; to all who support their service, who are so well represented here today: It is my great honor to join you here at the home of the Airborne and Special Operations Forces — Fort Bragg, North Carolina!  (Applause.)

And before I begin, allow me to bring greetings from a friend of mine and your Commander-in-Chief, who’s headed to North Carolina a little bit later today, but when I told him I was going to be at Fort Bragg, I think he sounded just a little bit jealous.  But he’s a great champion of the men and women who serve in our armed forces and their families, and he wanted me to express his thanks.  So allow me to extend the greetings and appreciation of the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.  (Applause.)

You know, as the President said earlier this month, you here live by the creed of Douglas MacArthur, that, “In war, there is no substitute for victory.”  And as the President said, you are the greatest soldiers on Earth.

You step forward to protect our families and our nation and our freedom.  You put on the uniform of the greatest all-volunteer military ever assembled in history.  And make no mistake about it: The Armed Forces of the United States of America are the greatest force for good in the history of the world.  And you are part of that force.  (Applause.)
You know, you chose to be a part of all of that, to follow in the footsteps of our nation’s greatest heroes.  You chose to do your part in our time to leave a legacy of freedom for generations to come.  And I can assure you, as I travel around this country, that the American people are grateful every day for your service.

You know, I’m proud to stand before each and every one of you, and it’s an honor to be here today.  In fact, I’m proud to know that there’s some fellow Hoosiers from the great state of Indiana right in front of me.  Their presence here, and your presence here, confirms what we know in this country: You all come from the rest of us, but you are the best of us.  And make no mistake about it: You are Army Strong, and the American people know it.  (Applause.)

And speaking of Army Strong, I know that my wife Karen actually beat me here to Fort Bragg just a few months ago, traveling here to express our gratitude to the other half of your service.  The truth of the matter is, for most of the men and women of our armed forces, you serve as a family, and we know you couldn’t do it without your spouses, without your moms, your dads, and the support of your kids and your families at home.

So why don’t we give a big round of applause for all the family members and spouses who are here with us today?  (Applause.)  Thank you for your service to our country as well.

You know, it’s remarkable to think that some of America’s greatest heroes have walked where I had the privilege of walking today.  And I got to tell you, I know firsthand about the character of the men and women of Fort Bragg because I happen to have with me today a paratrooper, a combat veteran from the Vietnam War and many conflicts since.

He was a Green Beret, a recipient of the Silver Star and the Bronze Star.  He serves now as my national security advisor, but you’ll be glad to know he was the 35th commander of the 82nd Airborne Division right here at Fort Bragg.  Would you join me in welcoming Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg back to Fort Bragg?  (Applause.)

General, come on up here.

GENERAL KELLOGG:  Well, that was — caught me a little bit by surprise.  It’s good to be back here at Green Ramp.  I just want just a minute — less than a minute to tell you thank you for what you do.

When this nation moves forward out of here at Green Ramp, and the Corps carries it, it carries the national colors with it.  You represent the best this nation has.

When I was coming up here, I looked at the markings on the vehicle, and I remember when the Falcons — the White Falcons — led us into Iraq right at the start in the first Gulf War.  And I remind everybody: When there’s an opportunity, before you go to bed every night, you should get down on your knees and thank God we have men and women like you, who are willing to carry our nation’s colors forward, and fight and win on any battlefield that they encounter.  I want to thank you for that from the bottom of my heart.

I also — since he turned the tables on me, I’m going to turn the tables a little bit on the Vice President.  And you are all so very fortunate to have a man as Vice President of the United States in Vice President Pence who deeply believes in you, the men and women in uniform.  And every time we travel to a military base, he makes sure we talk to the troopers that are out.  He’s a great Vice President.  He believes in you, like I do and like the American people do.

Thank you, and God bless.  (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, everybody.  He’s one of you, and we’re proud of him.  (Applause.)

You know, this really is an incredible place, and it’s a real honor to be here.  It’s amazing to think of the history here at Fort Bragg.  A little over a hundred years ago, during World War One, Camp Bragg was created as a place to train artillery for a new, modern warfare that had begun on the other side of the Atlantic.  Where American soldiers proved decisive in winning the deadliest conflict the world had known to that date.

But since then — amazing to think at this place — millions of warriors have come through here.  Millions of warriors have gone out from this place to every corner on the Earth to places like Salerno and Normandy, to Panama and Vietnam, Mogadishu, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

After all, it was the 18th Airborne Corps that put a halt through Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.  It was the 82nd Airborne that led the assault into Panama in Operation Just Cause.  And it was Special Operation Forces that captured Saddam and brought him to justice.  And it’s been Special Operation Forces that have led the way to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria with great courage and valor.  (Applause.)

You know, when the emergency deployment phone rings, it’s picked up here at Fort Bragg.  And I want to assure you that your President and his Vice President know that.  This is an incredible place.  Over that last century, Fort Bragg has grown to a remarkable scale.  It’s 500 square miles in size.  About 90 percent of that land is used for training.  But I don’t need to tell most of you about that.

And where our men and women in uniform perform a total of 8 million hours of training every year, more than a quarter of a million people live, work, and train at Fort Bragg.  Soldiers, families, retirees, and civilians all on — and maybe most remarkable of all, I just heard this statistic; I had to check it twice: On an average day, there’s a baby born here every four hours.  (Laughter.)

You know, it’s arguably the largest military installation in the free world.  More than 10 percent of the Army’s active-duty soldiers are stationed right here, alongside more than a thousand Marines, airmen, and sailors.  And I’m told the locals affectionately call this place the “center of the military universe.”  And they’re right.  America is proud of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  (Applause.)

It’s amazing: More than a dozen commands are represented here, including U.S. Forces Command; the 18th Airborne, “America’s Contingency Corps”; the 82nd, the “All Americans”; the Joint Special Operations Command.  It’s really remarkable.  Fort Bragg is full of patriots like all of you I’m looking at today who have served this nation with distinction and are serving us today.  We’re proud of you all.

Like a former baseball star from — went to Indiana Tech.  He’s a Green Beret who deployed seven times.  He received the Bronze Star for valor in Afghanistan.  He lost his lower leg in the service of his country.  But in spite of that, I’m told that he’s still an incredible athlete — a runner.  And he’s been an inspiration to people all around him.  So would you join me in showing our admiration and appreciation to Sergeant First Class Brant Ireland?  Where are you, Brant?  Take a bow.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Sergeant.

We also have with us a Major who deployed to Afghanistan and faced down an ambush by the Taliban.  A 10-hour gunfight ensued.  For his heroic actions during the ordeal, he received the Bronze Star for valor.  So join me in thanking Major Ryan Schlosser for his extraordinary service to this country.  (Applause.)  Major, thank you.

You are heroes all.  But the truth is, gathered here and on the bases today, not all of the heroes of the Airborne, our Special Forces, are with us.  In fact, I just took a moment to stop by the memorial and breathe a prayer for the fallen and prayer of comfort for their families.

So allow me to take a moment, particularly today, to honor the service and memory of a warrior from the 10th Special Forces Group who fell in combat this weekend in Afghanistan.  Those of you that knew him know he was a soldier’s soldier.  He truly was.  He deployed numerous times.  Received the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Bronze Star with three oak leaf clusters and dozens more commendations in recognition of his unwavering dedication and selfless service to the nation.

So, on behalf of our Commander-in-Chief and a grateful nation, allow me to express our deepest condolences to his family, his loved ones, and his brothers-and-sisters-in-arms.  And I’ll make you a promise: This nation will never forget or fail to honor the life and service of Sergeant Major Ryan Sartor.

But to all the men and women who work and train and deploy from here at Fort Bragg, I’m here not only to say thank you for service, but I’m here to assure you that what you do is vitally important to our nation’s security.  And your service is noted and appreciated, from the President on down.

In President Donald Trump, you have a Commander-in-Chief who understands that our nation’s security depends on each and every one of you, living up to your calling, living lives of discipline and commitment.

The truth is, we know the foundation of America’s national security is all of you: the men and women of our armed forces.

You know, I got to tell you, I couldn’t be more proud to serve as Vice President to a President who cares so deeply about the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces of the United States.  And I’m proud to report to you that President Donald Trump has taken decisive action, from the first day of our administration, to rebuild our military and restore the arsenal of democracy.

In fact, in our first year in office, President Trump signed the largest investment in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan, including the largest pay increase for the men and women of our armed forces in nearly 10 years.  And you deserved every single penny.  (Applause.)

As we speak, back in Washington, we’re negotiating this year’s defense budget.  In fact, a few months ago, the President proposed the largest defense budget in American history.  And I promise you, we’re going to continue to make sure that the strongest military force in the history of the world has the resources and the support you need, the best equipment, and the best training on the planet.

Our proposal funds an end strength of more than 2 million active and reserve military personnel.  And I will make you this solemn promise: Under President Trump’s leadership and this administration, we will always give our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard the resources and training you need to accomplish your mission and come home safe, so help us God.  (Applause.)

We’ve renewed America’s strength, and you are that strength.  And with that strength, the United States is once again embracing our role as leader of the free world.  We’re standing with our allies and standing up to our enemies.

You know, it’s encouraging to note that, over the last two and half years, our NATO allies are contributing more to our common defense than ever before.  And whether it’s the Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS in Syria or Iraq, with all of you, we’ve taken the fight to radical Islamic terrorists on our terms, on their soil.  And I know many of you have been the very tip of the spear.

It’s remarkable to think that five years ago, ISIS controlled nearly 35,000 square miles in Syria and Iraq.  And nearly 5 million people lived under the horrifying and brutal regime of ISIS.  But today, thanks to your courage and commitment and the dedication of so many of you who’ve trained and deployed from here at Fort Bragg, the last inch of ISIS-controlled ground in Syria was captured earlier this year.  Job well done, Fort Bragg.  (Applause.)

And we know the fight is far from over.  I do also want to promise you we’re going to continue to give you the resources you need and the support you deserve to defeat radical Islamic terrorists anywhere they arise, anywhere in the world.

In this time of widening challenges and unknowable threats, I don’t need to tell all of you here at Fort Bragg that we need to be ready.

So allow me to close with this admonition on behalf of your Commander-in-Chief.  I urge you, in these challenging times, to be vigilant, respect the chain of command, trust your superiors and trust your orders, mind your mission, play the role that you’ve stepped forward to play, and take care of one another.  The American people are counting on you.  And I know, looking out at each of every one of you, and from what I saw here today, I know we can.

You know, it’s actually very humbling for me to stand before men and women in uniform because my life did not take me into the uniform of the United States.  I am the son of a combat veteran who served in the Army in the Korean War, and I’m the proud father of a United States Marine.  But maybe it’s altogether fitting — maybe it’s altogether fitting that I come here today as your Vice President to speak a word of gratitude to each and every one of you and assure you of the determination of this administration and the people of this country to make sure that you have the support that you need.

We know that your service comes with sacrifice.  You have stepped forward in a calling that has counted our lives more important than yours.  But I want to assure you that you do not bear that burden alone.

As you go forth from here today, I want to assure you, wherever you are called to serve, wherever you are deployed, you will carry with you the strength and pride of this nation, the confidence of your Commander-in-Chief.  And I also know that you will carry with you, as our armed forces have from the very founding of this nation, the prayers of the American people.

I know that millions of Americans pray every day for all of you who serve — all of you who serve and protect this nation.  Our prayer is that no harm would befall you, no plague would come near your tent, that “He would command his angels concerning you to watch over you in all your ways.”  I know that prayer and that ancient sentiment is on the lips and hearts of people all across this country every day.

So thank you for the honor of addressing you today.  And I look forward to meeting as many of you as time permits.

I leave here today with renewed confidence.  I know as long as we have men and women like all of you with the selflessness and the courage to serve; as long as we have heroes willing to put your lives on the line for ours and for our freedom, and as long as we have patriots who heard the call, “Whom shall I send?  Who will go for us?”  And you said, “Here am I.  Send me.” — I know we will protect our nation.  We will defend our freedom.  And we will forge a future of security and prosperity and peace for ourselves and for generations to come.

We will keep safe this last best hope of Earth, these United States of America.  This, we’ll defend.

Thank you for your service.  (Applause.)  God bless you and God bless the United States of America.

END

4:09 P.M. EDT