Obama, Biden rally Fort Campbell Soldiers
May 6, 2011
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden visited Fort Campbell, Ky., May 6 to speak with Soldiers who recently came home from a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan.
The leaders' first stop after landing was to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment compound where the distinguished guests spoke privately with the 160th SOAR leadership and Soldiers.
About 2,200 Soldiers anxiously awaited the dignitaries' arrival to Hangar 3 at Campbell Army Airfield.
"It's an honor to be back here so soon," Biden said. "So let me just say how much gratitude the president and I have and all Americans do have for you all. You guys have been in the fight from the beginning. The risks you've taken, the incredible sacrifices you've made, the comrades you've lost, the losses you've personally endured. You've been in some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world."
After Biden warmed up the crowd, Obama took the podium.
"Hello Fort Campbell," Obama said to thunderous applause, "101st Airborne Division Air Assault, hello!"
"I want to acknowledge the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the Night Stalkers, for their extraordinary service," Obama said with a wide smile as he welcomed home some of the other units that just returned to Fort Campbell. "On behalf of a grateful nation, welcome home."
He also acknowledged the rest of the 101st Soldiers still back in theater.
"I came here for a simple reason: to say 'thank you' on behalf of America," the president said. "This has been an historic week in the life of our nation."
Obama's trip comes five days after he announced to the world that Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. commandos at the Pakistani compound where he was hiding. One 101st Soldier thought it was fitting that Obama would cap off his week at the installation. Since deploying in 2010, 125 Soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.
"I kind of figured that he would come out and come to a place like Fort Campbell, especially being with all the history we have here," said Pvt. Jose Carambot, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
The president recognized the great role the 101st plays every day in stabilizing Afghanistan and training the country's own troops.
"Thanks to the incredible skill and courage of countless individuals," Obama said, "the terrorists that struck our nation on 9/11 will never threaten America again."
"I promise that our nation will never forget those we lost that dark September day," the commander in chief said.
"I had the privilege of meeting the extraordinary special ops folks who honored that promise. There was a chance for me to say on behalf of all Americans and people around the world, 'Job well done.'"
"These Americans deserve credit for one of the greatest intelligence military operations in our nation's history," Obama said, "but so does every person who wears America's uniform. The finest military the world has ever known, and that includes all of you men and women of the 101st."
"Even before this week's operation we have put al-Qaida's leadership under more pressure than at any time since 9/11 on both sides of the border," the president said. "Our strategy is working and there is not greater evidence than justice finally being served to Osama bin Laden. I don't want to fool you; this continues to be a very tough fight. You know that. But, because of this progress, we're moving into a new phase."
This is the first time Obama visited Fort Campbell. Biden made a visit earlier this year where he had the unexpected privilege to welcome home Soldiers with the 101st after visiting with the Fort Campbell high school football team in February.
"I think his speech was very moving and inspirational," said Capt. Michael White, G3 Aviation. "I'm glad he was able to find time to come down and speak with us. My wife and family are back home right now and they're watching this on TV. It's amazing."
Despite the criticism over the handling of the bin Laden situation in recent days, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade's Spc. Victoria Scott called Obama's trip "enlightening."
"I liked what the commander in chief had to say," said the Soldier of six years, who has deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. "It's uplifting to still see him supporting us."
The visit came on Military Spouse Appreciation Day and both Obama and Biden took the opportunity to thank the families and spouses.
"I want to also thank your families. They've made sacrifices as well, the most tangible sacrifices," Biden said. "Your families serve as well and the rest of America owes your families a debt of gratitude as well."
Editor's Note: Kimberly Lewis, Megan Locke and Heather Clark contributed to this report.