By Sgt. 1st Class Peter MayesDecember 6, 2010
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Army News Service, Dec. 6, 2010) -- More than 2,000 enthusiastic servicemembers, including Soldiers with the 101st Sustainment Brigade, were on hand to welcome President Obama, who made a surprise visit here Friday night.
The president praised the troops for the continued efforts in their fight against the insurgents, saying the recent surge has weakened the Taliban. He also thanked them for their selfless sacrifice of spending time away from their families this holiday season.
"I wanted to spend some time with the men and women of the greatest fighting force the world has ever known," he said. "In the 21st Century, there are people who shrink away from the responsibility you embrace ... that is the legacy you have forged and carry forward."
The visit was the second time Obama visited troops in Afghanistan, who have been here for the past nine years.
The brigade had been notified of a special visit from a "very important dignitary," the day before, but primary leaders did not receive the full details of the visit until hours before the event.
"They kept a tight hush on this for security purposes," said 1st Sgt. Terence Clay, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 101st Special Troops Battalion, 101st Sustainment Brigade. "Having been deployed before, with all this going into effect, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what they were preparing for."
Soldiers from the brigade gathered together shortly before 8 p.m. and then headed toward a hangar on the base. The president came out after 10: 30 p.m. and spoke to the troops for about 19 minutes.
"The process was long, but it was worth the wait," Clay said.
Obama also addressed his administration's decision to freeze the salaries of top federal workers, but not its military, and also pledge to defeat Al-Qaeda. He also spent approximately 45 minutes greeting Soldiers, taking pictures with them after his speech before leaving.
Spc. Stevie Massey, a mechanic with the 101st Sustainment Brigade, said she didn't focus much on Obama's speech because she was too busy taking photos.
"I was really excited," she said. "People were yelling and screaming all over the place."
Massey said the crowd treated their photos like collector's cards. "Everyone is asking to trade pictures with each other," she said.
This was Massey's second time seeing Obama in person. She was assigned to Fort Hood, Texas, during the shooting incident when he came and visited the post.
"This was definitely a lot better this time around," she said.
Clay described Obama's speech as timely.
"His intent was to reassure us and show his appreciation for what we're doing, as well as recognize the real heroes of this conflict, which are the families," he said. "Anytime a leader gets in the foxhole with his troops, (it) means a lot to us. He allowed people to come here and see him, touch him, talk to him, rather than see him on TV."
Staff Sgt. Michael Simon, a supply noncommissioned officer for the 101st Sustainment Brigade, echoed Clay's sentiments.
"Anytime the commander in chief takes time out of his schedule to visit the troops reinforces his commitment to us," he said. "He's letting us know that he's with us and will stick with until the mission is complete."