SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., April 2, 2010 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates traveled here yesterday to personally present U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) with the Joint Meritorious Unit Award.

The award is granted to joint activities for meritorious achievement or service, superior to that which is normally expected, for actions in the following situations; combat with an armed enemy of the United States, a declared national emergency or under extraordinary circumstances that involve national interests.

"I am glad to get the chance to be here today to have the opportunity to present the Joint Meritorious Unit Award to the men and women of the United States Transportation Command," Gates said. "You should know that this award is the first and only award that I have personally issued in my eight-plus years as Secretary of Defense."

Gates was joined by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, who oversees operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Air Force Gen. Duncan J. McNabb, commander of U.S. TRANSCOM, and other senior civilian and military officials.

"Mr. Secretary, I want to thank you for personally flying out to Scott Air Force Base today" to present the award to TRANSCOM, Petraeus said. "Nobody deserves this honor more."

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told Pentagon reporters March 30, "Secretary Gates believes the members of TRANSCOM are among the unsung heroes of our military efforts around the world, and this award allows him to personally thank this dedicated and unheralded team of professionals."

TRANSCOM also played an instrumental role in U.S. relief efforts in Haiti following the devastating earthquake, Morrell said.

"In responding to the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, TRANSCOM has provided over 2 million meals, more than 5 million liters of water to the island, in ongoing humanitarian and disaster-relief operations," Morrell said.

The citation accompanying the award reads: "Headquarters, United States Transportation Command distinguished itself by exceptionally meritorious achievement from 1 March 2007 to 28 February 2010. During this period, the Command consistently displayed exceptional collaborative leadership and execution of wartime missions for United States forces engaged in Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM.

"The Command's three components--Air Mobility Command, Military Sealift Command, and Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command--carried over 5 million passengers, 25 thousand patients, and 7.5 million short tons in support of United States Central Command's two main operations," the citation continued. "U.S. TRANSCOM expedited the delivery of thousands of sets of individual body armor, armored vehicles, and supplemental armor kits, in addition to supporting troop surges in both Iraq and Afghanistan."

McNabb thanked Gates and Petraeus and lauded the efforts of those under his command.

"You have honored us today by your presence and your words," McNabb said. "And we are humbled by the trust you have in us. We will strive to always, always be worthy of that trust."