News: Hagel visits troops in southern Afghanistan
Story by Sgt. Antony Lee
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made his way to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 8, 2013, to visit deployed service members and meet leaders of both coalition and Afghan forces.
Major General Paul J. LaCamera, Regional Command (South) and 4th Infantry Division commanding general, welcomed Hagel on the flight line at KAF and accompanied him to the regional headquarters where Hagel met various leaders. Command Sgt. Maj. David M. Clark, who took over as the new command sergeant major of RC(S) earlier the same day, also welcomed Hagel at the flight line.
General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., International Security Assistance Force commander, accompanied Hagel during the trip.
After a discussion with ISAF leaders, Hagel met with Afghan leaders including Maj. Gen. Abdul Hamid, the commander of the Afghan National Army’s 205th Corps, which is based at Camp Hero in Kandahar Province.
Hagel then made his way to KAF’s Fest Tent, where LaCamera introduced him to about 200 service members who awaited Hagel in a formation.
“It is my distinct honor and pleasure to introduce the 24th secretary of defense of the United States of America,” he said, noting also that Hagel is a Vietnam veteran with two purple hearts.
Hagel started off his speech by expressing his gratitude to the soldiers.
“I’m here to thank you and to tell you how much we all appreciate what you’re doing,” he said to the service members before speaking about the military’s financial future and reassuring the Soldiers in response to a question asked by a Nebraska National Guardsman.
Specialist Garrett Torchiani, of 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, heard Hagel speak and received a coin from him, as did most in attendance. He said Hagel’s visit represented a “vote of confidence” from U.S. leadership and that it was a morale-booster.
“It was a great opportunity to see one of our leaders,” Torchiani, a Bremerton, Wash., native, said.
Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Luetkeman of Cherokee, Iowa, also said he appreciated the visit.
“It’s great to see the [secretary of defense] come out and greet us over the holidays and inform us of some of the fiscal issues that we’re experiencing in the military,” Luetkeman, a section chief for customer service for the 451st Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, said.