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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
March 20, 2008

Vice President's Remarks in Dinner with the Troops
Joint Task Force Mess Hall
Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan


5:09 P.M. (Local)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. It's good to see all of you. And as most of you probably know, I was in Iraq on Monday and Tuesday, and I'll be in Oman, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Turkey before I go back to Washington next week. It's a very special privilege, though, to return to Afghanistan as a part of this journey, and have an opportunity to spend some time with all of you.

I'm here on behalf of President Bush and the nation to say thank you: thanks for serving our country, for doing it with such skill and honor, and making all of us very proud.

Almost every factor that makes a battlefield tough is found right here in Afghanistan -- rugged terrain, lousy weather, great distances, a nasty, brutal enemy. But our military record here, as leader of a great coalition, has been brilliant. Seven years ago, this country was in the dark ages, and it was the primary staging area for al Qaeda, obviously, in their attack on the homeland. Today Afghanistan has an elected government, a rising economy, and schools that educate both boys and girls. Afghanistan is rebuilding itself. And the people of this nation, and the government that serves them, are key allies for us in the war on terror.

The Afghan people have no desire to be pulled back into the dark ages. They're trusting America to stand by them in this fight, and that trust is being repaid every day. Having liberated this country, the United State s and our coalition partners have no intention of allowing extremists to shoot their way back into power. We're going to get this job done right, so that another generation of Americans doesn't have to come back and do it all over again.

A lot of history is being made here every single day. Much of the credit goes to all of you. The President and I get regular briefings on the action here, and we don't take you for granted for a single moment. We know the work is hard, we know the conditions are tough, we know the deployments are hard on families. But we're impressed beyond measure by all of the accomplishments that you've made. We've seen tactical skill and authentic American heroism. And I appreciate the chance to say to all of you: Thank you for what you've done for all of us. (Applause.)

MAJOR GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. This is a special day, of course, to have the Vice President of the United States here, to do a couple things with the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines you see in front of me.

The first rank here are awardees, and the Vice President, if you want to share in this award process here, and award these five great service members their awards. Of course the first one is a very special one, because it's a Silver Star for Specialist Brown there. And we'll talk about that when we read the citation. And then after the awards ceremony, we're going to go through and reenlist six great service members here who again have reenlisted to serve their nation in a time of war. So we're very fortunate to have people like this, great Americans out here, making a difference every day.

So without further adieu, we'll begin the award process.

SERGEANT FIRST CLASS SELL: Attention to orders. The Silver Star is presented to Specialist Monica Brown for extraordinary heroism while serving as a combat medic on patrol on April 25, 2007. While on patrol, the trail vehicle struck an IED which ignited the fuel, engulfing the vehicle in an intense fireball. The patrol began to take small arms and mortar fire. As the element retired fire, PFC Brown immediately dismounted her vehicle, and without regard for her personal safety, moved to the burning vehicle amid intense enemy fire.

After arriving at the vehicle, PFC Brown began to treat two casualties. As she treated the wounded soldiers, intense enemy fire continued to impact her immediate vicinity. On several occasions, PFC Brown used her body to shield the casualties from enemy fire, as well as the explosions of ammunition. PFC Brown moved to the more protected position with her patients, and continued treatment as enemy small arms fire continued to impact around her. Once again, PFC Brown shielded the wounded with her body.

Specialist Brown's heroism and selfless devotion to duty reflect great credit upon herself, Task Force Fury, the Combined Joint Task Force-82, and the United States Army.

(The Silver Star is presented.) (Applause.)

SERGEANT FIRST CLASS SELL: The Bronze Star Medal for Valor is presented to Petty Officer First Class Christopher R. Phillips for heroic achievement while serving as a medical support for the Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah, and support of Operation Enduring Freedom VIII. Petty Officer Phillips demonstrated courage under fire and selfless disregard for his own safety by running through small arms fire, carrying a wounded casualty to safety, and rendering life-saving care.

Additionally, while his gunner was receiving fire, Petty Officer Phillips again traversed through fire to rescue his gunner, and maneuvered his vehicle in order to gain fire superiority. He identified and established a catch and collection point, rendering life and limb saving care, and arranged for prompt medical evacuation of five additional casualties while taking fire.

Petty Officer Phillips' bravery, zealous initiative and total dedication to duty reflect great credit upon him, Task Force Anzio, the Combined Joint Task Force-82, and the United States Navy.

(The Bronze Star is presented.) (Applause.)

SERGEANT FIRST CLASS SELL: The Bronze Star Medal for Valor is presented to Specialist Charles E. Bell, Jr., for exceptional valor as a machine gunner in Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd infantry, during combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Specialist Bell displayed extreme courage and valor under fire during his role in an attack on the Ranch House Outpost. Specialist Bell was a vital element in the suppression of the enemy advance, and preventing them from enveloping the post by risking his life and exposing himself to enemy fire in order to reach a MK-19 40mm grenade launcher. Specialist Bell then held off a larger advancing enemy by placing effective fire on their positions outside the wire.

Specialist Bell then manned a 240B machine gun and effectively continued suppressing fire when he was wounded. Despite the bullet wound in the arm, Specialist Bell continued to stop the enemy from infiltrating the perimeter until close air support (A-10s) made three gun runs on enemy positions. With the enemy at bay, Specialist Bell continued communications to the tactical operations center on the radio and helped cover the evacuation of casualties. His actions saved many lives, and reflect great credit upon him, Task Force Bayonet, Combined Joint Task Force-82, and the United States Army.

(The Bronze Star is awarded.) (Applause.)

SERGEANT FIRST CLASS SELL: The Joint Service Commendation Medal is awarded to Staff Sergeant Earl D. Lopez, United States Marine Corps, who distinguished himself by exceptionally meritorious service while assigned to the J1 human resources NCO, Joint Task Force Paladin, Combined Joint Task Force-82, Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, for direct support of Enduring Freedom, from 23 September 2007 to 22 March 2008.

Staff Sergeant Lopez' exceptional leadership and knowledge was instrumental to the services provided by the J1. He went outside the scope of his daily duties to provide the best support to the members of JTF Paladin on a regular basis. The distinctive accomplishments of Staff Sergeant Lopez reflect great credit upon himself, Combined Joint Task Force-82, and the United States Marine Corps.

(The Joint Service Commendation Medal is presented.) (Applause.)

SERGEANT FIRST CLASS SELL: The Army Commendation Medal is presented to Captain Brian White, for meritorious service while serving in the Operation Enduring Freedom. Captain White served as the medical director of the intensive care unit at the Craig Joint Theater Hospital. During his tenure, he invested over 1,500 hours in critical care consultations and personally provided care to 283 patients. He was selected to be a member of the infectious control team, and improved the hospital's performance by a record setting 48 percent over the previous year, and contributed to the lowest mortality and complication rate in theater history. Captain White also excelled as an instructor for the CJTH Mentorship Program, where he taught more than 40 Afghan medical providers.

His contributions to the fight in the war on terrorism reflect great credit upon himself, Task Force MED, Combined Joint Task force-82, and the United States Army.

(The Army Commendation Medal is presented.) (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Now I have the privilege of administering the oath to six soldiers reenlisting. Raise your right hand, and repeat after me. "I do solemnly swear, I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies foreign and domestic, and I will bear truth faith and allegiance to the same, and I will obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me; according to regulations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, so help me God." (Applause.)

END 5:18 P.M. (Local)

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