By Chris Rasmussen, Fort Jackson LeaderNovember 2, 2007
President George W. Bush paid a historic visit to Fort Jackson Friday - the first president to visit the installation in more than 50 years.
Following a political event in Columbia, Bush visited Fort Jackson where he observed training, attended graduation and spent private time with area Gold Star families.
His first visit was to the Fit to Win training course with Soldiers in their first week of Basic Combat Training.
"I am honored to be here with you today," Bush said to Soldiers assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment. "I want you to tell your loved ones that I came by to see you. I also want to tell you how proud I am of your willingness to serve. Every time I am with Soldiers, I feel more confident about the direction we are going in the Global War on Terror."
"That was a special opportunity that doesn't come often," said Capt. Kyle Stevens, commander, Co. E. "For me though, the thrill was seeing my Soldiers and the glow on their faces when he greeted them. This makes basic training a very memorable experience for them."
The Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, who graduated Friday, culminated their time at Fort Jackson with an equally memorable experience.
Bush was the guest of honor at graduation where he addressed the Soldiers, their families and much of the Fort Jackson community. He also presented outstanding Soldier and drill sergeant awards.
Flanked by Brig. Gen. James H. Schwitters, Fort Jackson commanding general, and Lt. Col. Reginald Cotton, commander 3rd Bn., 34th Inf. Reg., Bush delivered a 20-minute speech, opening his remarks with a loud "Hooah!"
"I want to congratulate those of you who have completed your Basic Combat Training," he said. "I thank your families for their support, and I want to thank those who worked hard to train you. You have stepped forward and volunteered in this time of danger. You need to know you make Americans proud.
"Soldiers who have marched on this field have battled fascists, dictators and terrorists. Our Soldiers have brought freedom to millions of people they never knew," he said. "Because of their efforts, America is stronger; America is safer; and America is free." He ended the speech with Fort Jackson's motto "Victory Starts Here!"
Following the graduation ceremony, Bush made a stop at the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School where he met and greeted chaplains and chaplain assistants.
He then spent private time with area families who have lost a Soldier during the Global War on Terror.