FT. CAMPBELL, Ky. — "Air assault!" President Bush exclaimed.
And 12,000 special operations troops responded to their traditional war cry with raised fists and cheers.
Wednesday was the day for the Bush administration to rally the troops at home, and the president and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld made the most of it--Bush here at Ft. Campbell, home of the 101st Airborne Division, and Rumsfeld in North Carolina, at Polk Air Force Base and Ft. Bragg, headquarters of the Special Operations Command.
FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Saturday November 24, 2001 Home Edition Part A Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
Air Force base--A story in the A section Thursday incorrectly identified a military base in North Carolina where Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld went to rally the troops. Rumsfeld went to Pope Air Force Base, not Polk Air Force Base.
On a balmy afternoon, under sunny autumn skies, Bush came to the parade ground at this sprawling base, home of the Screaming Eagles, the 101st's nickname. His audience included members of the rapid-deployment air assault division, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and the 5th Special Forces Group.
Against a backdrop of a Screaming Eagles banner, several stories high and held aloft by cranes, Bush bounded onto the stage wearing a green flight jacket bearing the unit's distinctive insignia: a bellicose bald eagle. As Black Hawk helicopters buzzed the perimeter of the field, he received a hero's welcome at this post, about 50 miles northwest of Nashville. Several times, the soldiers--wearing camouflage fatigues and maroon, green or black berets--and their families broke out in chants of "USA!"
Bush responded in kind, praising the "fearless heart" of the military.
He also drew on the Screaming Eagles' storied history, saying, "Great causes are not easy causes. It was a long way from Bunker Hill to Yorktown. It was a long way for the 101st from Normandy to final victory over fascism in Europe. When wronged, our great nation has always been patient and determined and relentless, and that's the way we are today."
Rumsfeld's visit to Army Rangers and Green Berets as well as Navy SEALs was designed to highlight the increasing role of special operations troops in the war in Afghanistan. He and other visitors at Ft. Bragg watched Green Beret trainees parachute to the ground from an MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at 8,000 feet, and another cadre charge into a mock hotel, blowing up the front doors and shattering the glass on a second-floor window.
"We've seen some capabilities that have been front and center in Afghanistan," Rumsfeld said. "You have well earned your outstanding reputation, and the world learns why, when the president dials 911, it goes right to you."
He noted that today families across the nation would be enjoying Thanksgiving dinner and added, "As sure as we are standing here, they will be thanking God for each of you--in all places across the globe."
Chen reported from Ft. Campbell and Hendren from Ft. Bragg, N.C.