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Public Papers - 1990

Remarks to United States Troops at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin in Barstow, California


Good afternoon, General Bergeron, and good afternoon to the men of the 3d Brigade, the 9th Infantry Division, Motorized, from Fort Lewis, Washington; the pilots and the airmen of the Tactical Air Command; and the opposing force and the observer controllers.

It's great to be here at this first stop on a trip that's going to take me to San Francisco tomorrow and then to the banks of the Missouri in Nebraska and finally to the heartland of Ohio on Thursday. I appreciate the opportunity to witness firsthand the rigorous training that has made the American Army the premier land force in the world today. And these realistic battles that you wage here in the Mojave Desert forge tactical expertise, leadership, and a fighting spirit -- and that's what we need.

No less an authority than General MacArthur put it this way: ``Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory.'' And I might add that nowhere was this more true than in Panama.

I'm grateful to Secretary Cheney and to General Powell and the Joint Chiefs for their brilliant leadership of Operation Just Cause. All Americans are grateful and proud of those courageous and patriotic young Americans who fought with unwavering devotion to liberty. Thanks to them, yet another country is free.

Never before has the importance and power of training been on more prominent display than in Panama. When I ordered the U.S. forces into action there last December, I didn't have to call my friend, our able Chief of Staff, Carl Vuono, to find out whether the Army was ready. I knew that the Army was well-trained, prepared to carry out any mission, anytime, anywhere. And the stunning performance of the Army and our other outstanding services more than justified my confidence and that of the American people.

Your work here at the NTC reflects the state of training throughout the Army -- demanding, tough. But whether you are defending along the Whale or attacking up the Valley of Death or polishing gunnery skills back at your home station, remember that you are -- all of you -- preparing yourselves for combat and, by doing so, making a direct and lasting contribution to the preservation of peace.

You know, lasting peace stems from strength that is moral and intellectual, economic and military. Lasting peace comes from partnership with allies who are resolute in the defense of liberty. And it comes from a determination that makes a fragile peace strong, a temporary peace permanent. And lasting peace is our goal.

Now I'm sure that, like many Americans, you've been following the fascinating meeting taking place in Moscow. I can speak for all Americans when I say we are pleased to see Chairman Gorbachev's proposals to expand steps toward political pluralism in the Soviet Union. As a free and democratic people, Americans will always welcome measures which promote the growth of democracy. And it's especially encouraging to see anything which might bring the day of true democracy a bit closer for the Soviet people.

As we enter the nineties, the United States is shaping its military to meet a changing international environment, one that may be potentially safer, but one that will almost surely have its share of uncertainties and dangers. We see our active forces smaller but more agile and flexible -- well-suited and ready for the demands of likely contingencies. The events of Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union have changed our strategic defense posture. I have proposed an additional reduction of U.S. and Soviet troops in Central and Eastern Europe to a level of 195,000. At the same time, Secretary Cheney has laid out a very reasoned and steadfast approach to reducing military expenditures in the U.S. But it is important not to let these encouraging changes, political or military, lull us into a sense of complacency, nor can we let down our guard against a worldwide threat. The Soviet Union still does maintain formidable forces. Military challenges to democracy persist in every hemisphere. America must always be prepared to fight for freedom and security. When I decide we must use military forces to protect American lives and interests, I need to know, as I did in Panama, that you are ready and you are ready now.

Thousands of dedicated Americans are working for peace around the world -- at Livermore Labs, where I'm going to visit tomorrow, to the troops training here at NTC to the worldwide alert crews that I'll be talking to there at Offutt SAC [Strategic Air Command] Headquarters on Thursday.

I congratulate each of you on your professional achievements, your personal commitment to the defense of America. As I watch you train with a ``We can, we will'' attitude, I want to make sure the men and women of Old Reliable, Gold Devils, Mung-Ho, Scout Out, Always First, Task Force Sabre, Active Support, the OPFOR, and the OC's all realize how very proud and thankful the American people are. God bless our great country, and thank you, colonel. And now back to war.

Note: The President spoke by radio at noon from the Communications Room at the Training and Feedback Center at Fort Irwin. In his remarks, he referred to Col. A.J. Bergeron, commander of the 3d Brigade, 9th Infantry Division; Gen. Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and the following military units present at the Center: Old Reliable, the 9th Infantry Division; the Go Devils, the 3d Brigade, 9th Infantry Division; Mung-Ho, the 3d Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment; Scout Out, the 2d Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment; Always First, Company C, 2d Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment; Task Force Sabre, 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment; Active Support, the 99th Forward Support Battalion; OPFOR, Operations Forces; and OC, observer controllers. Following his remarks, the President watched war games at the Center and spoke with some of the participants in the battlefield exercise. He then traveled to Los Angeles.

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