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Donna Miles American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 2008 –
Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England welcomed civilian business, academic and local government leaders to the Pentagon today to kick off a weeklong schedule that will give them a firsthand look at the military at work.
The Joint Civilian Orientation Conference participants are slated to travel to sites throughout Europe to meet U.S. servicemembers and learn about their equipment and capabilities and national defense strategy.
England urged the JCOC participants to learn all they can about the military that’s dedicated to protecting their freedoms. “We have one mission, and it is protecting and defending our nation, and that is what everybody does,” he said.
That fundamental mission is particularly important as the United States confronts the threat posed by violent extremists who revealed their intentions on 9/11, he told the group.
“Do you know why 3,000 people died that day?” he asked. “We lost 3,000 people that day because the guys who did it didn’t know how to kill 30,000 or 300,000 or 3 million. But they would have if they could have.”
The threat continues, England said, and the only way to confront it is head-on.
“I am absolutely convinced that if we ever get off the side where we are no longer on the offense, we will be in serious trouble,” he said. “When [extremists] are on the offense and we are on the defense, we lose. You cannot play defense, not in the United States of America.”
England praised the entire defense team that leads the United States’ offensive line in the war on terror, but reserved his highest praise for the men and women of the armed forces. All are volunteers who continue to enlist and re-enlist in the military despite their clear understanding of the demands and potential cost, he said.
“People put on the uniform and they give their lives for our freedom. Who else does that?” England said. “This is profound.”
Their dedication, like that of those who served before them, has ensured America’s freedoms throughout its history, he said. And it’s what continued to protect them in a post-9/11 world.
“A remarkable thing happens every single morning in America,” England told the group. “Every single person wakes up free. And it’s not by accident, it’s not by chance, it is not some inalienable right we all have. It’s because somebody went forward these last 230 years and served their country.”
Before meeting with England, the JCOC group attended a POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony on the Pentagon’s ceremonial lawn. Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for internal communications and public liaison, called the ceremony a fitting start to the trip because it recognized the sacrifices U.S. servicemembers and their families have made -- and continue to make.
Later, the JCOC participants received operational briefings and toured the Pentagon, including the Pentagon Memorial that was dedicated Sept. 11 to honor the 184 victims of the terrorist attack at the Pentagon in 2001.
Air Force Brig. Gen. David A. Cotton, U.S. European Command’s director of command, control, communications and warfighting integration, gave the group a “big picture” look at what’s ahead for them this week. He laid out the ambitious schedule ahead, with participants to fly on military aircraft, experience a landing and launch from a Navy ship and observe amphibious landings, urban area combat techniques, special operations assaults and other warfare demonstrations.
England told the group he wishes every American could have the opportunity to participate in a JCOC trip.
“If they could, I think they would have a whole different view about what’s being done for them every day,” he said.
The first U.S. defense secretary, James V. Forrestal, created the JCOC in 1948 to introduce civilian "movers and shakers" with little or no military exposure to the workings of the armed forces. Nearly six decades later, it remains the Defense Department's premier civic leader program. The program rotates among the U.S. combatant commands to showcase operations under way around the world. The last JCOC visit to U.S. European Command was in October 2005.
JCOC participants are selected from hundreds of candidates nominated by military commands worldwide, and they pay their own expenses throughout the conference