WASHINGTON, June 15, 2010 — President Barack Obama today praised the role the military is playing as part of oil spill response efforts in the Gulf of Mexico, and told military members at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla., they exemplify the resolve, determination and resilience the nation is demonstrating in the face of the disaster.
“That’s the same spirit we see in all of you – the men and women in uniform – the spirit we’ll need to meet other challenges of our time,” Obama told an assembly of sailors, airmen, soldiers, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.
He applauded their contributions as part of the national response to an unprecedented environmental disaster in the Gulf.
“This is an assault on our shores, and we’re going to fight back with everything that we’ve got,” he said. “And that includes mobilizing the resources of the greatest military in the world.”
In addition to serving as a major staging area for the response effort, Naval Air Station Pensacola is contributing manpower as part of the broad military response to the disaster, the president noted.
“All along the Gulf Coast, our men and women in uniform — active, Guard and reserve, from across the country — are stepping up and helping out,” Obama said.
“There are soldiers on the beaches putting out sandbags and building barriers and cleaning up the oil, and helping people process their claims for compensation from BP,” he said. “There are sailors and Marines offering their ships and their skimmers and their helicopters and miles of boom.
“There are airmen overhead, flying in equipment and spraying dispersant,” he continued. “And of course, there are Coast Guardsmen and women on the cutters, in the air, working around the clock.”
In addition, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has authorized the deployment of 17,500 National Guardsmen to respond to the crisis, Obama noted.
Although only 1,600 have been activated so far, “that leaves a lot of Guardsmen ready to help,” the president said. “And if our governors call on them, I know they’ll be ready, because they’re always ready.”
Obama pointed to the Gulf disaster as one of many challenges facing the United States: the worst economic crisis since the depression, high unemployment and two wars against adversaries “who will stop at nothing to strike our homeland and would kill innocent people, women and children, with no compunction.”
“Any one of these challenges alone would test our country,” he said. “Confronting them all at once might overwhelm a lesser nation.”
But the president vowed that the United States will weather these challenges and prevail, pointing to the example set throughout history by its men and women in uniform. “All of you represent the same spirit of service and sacrifice as those who’ve gone before, who defeated fascism, defeated tyranny, prevailed in a long Cold War over communism,” he said. “And now, in our time, you’ve toppled regimes based on terror and dictatorship, and you’ve given new hope to millions of people. You’ve earned your place among the greatest of generations.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)