Secretary of Defense Ash Carter visited Fort Leonard Wood Nov. 2 with the sole intent of seeing first-hand where the Army engineers train.

The Secretary made his first trip to post and not only observed Sapper training, but went hands-on testing his own skills at handling explosive charges, cutting steel with an exothermic torch, and other combat engineer equipment at Range 33. In addition to his training, Carter met with groups of combat engineers, conducted a media opportunity and toured the Engineer Museum.

Carter said his inspiration to come to Fort Leonard Wood was directly connected to a recent trip he made to Iraq.

"I visited Iraq and was very impressed with the U.S. engineers we have there who are teaching the Iraqis the same skills we teach here. These engineers on the ground in Iraq have trained the Iraqis who are going to destroy ISIL," Carter said. "The same skills they learned here are now being shared and taught to those Iraqi security forces."

"I wanted to see your training and can say this is an absolutely fantastic place -- there is no other (training facility) like it in the United States or in the world," Carter said. "You do a number of things here -- CBRN, military police and engineers, and right now, several time zones away, evening is coming to Iraq and the forces that trained here have trained the Iraqis who are going to destroy ISIL and take back their country."

Carter said that victory over ISIL will only stand if the local forces can sustain the victory.
"We can't be there forever, so it is up to the local Iraqi police and security forces to protect their citizens and preserve their victory," he said. "But we will be there for them and assist them as we bring down a tornado on ISIL with assistance in air power, intel, command and control and engineering. All the equipment we have provided and the training we have conducted enables the Iraqis to make the victory stick … and make the world safer for all of us."

Later, Carter conducted a question and answer session with Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines in the Engineer Regimental Room at the museum complex where he praised them for their dedication, professionalism and demonstrated values.

'If you want to tell your Family about the significance of your training here at Fort Leonard Wood and your career, turn on the television. The very skills you have learned here are being shared by other U.S. service members seven to eight time zones away with the forces set to destroy ISIL," Carter said. "Our allies, and the rest of the world, respect and are in awe of your skills."

Carter thanked the troops for all they do for the nation and the world, and for the values they uphold. U.S. military members are respected around the world, he said, noting the United States has many allies because of the values the nation and its military members uphold.

"We stand for the things that other people want also -- they want a better future for their children; they want the security that allows them to live their lives and do the things that make life meaningful," he said, adding, "You make that possible."

The defense chief said he is proud of the troops, not only for what they do but also for how they do it.

"What you do with your lives and what you're doing with your lives right here is the noblest thing a person can do with their life," he said. "Know that you're what I wake up to every morning. You're what I think about evening before I go to bed, and I'm so incredibly proud of you."

Carter is the second Secretary of Defense to visit Fort Leonard Wood since the War on Terrorism began in 2001. Then Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited the installation in 2004.

(Editor's note: Lisa Ferdinando, DoD News, contributed to this article.)