ABC News' Rachel Martin reports: President Obama stopped off in Anchorage, Alaska today to visit troops at the Elmendorf Air Base, before heading off to Asia for a one-week four nation trip, his first excursion to Asia as president.
Much of the president's focus in the past month has been on devising a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan; he delayed this trip in part so he could hold his 8th meeting with his war council. And the president made comments directly relevant to his decision making to the assembled troops.
“I will never hesitate to use force to protect America,” he said to a crowd of approximately 2,000 service members and their families. “I will not risk your lives unless it is necessary to America’s vital interests.
And if it is necessary, the United States of America will have your back. We’ll give you the strategy and clear mission you deserve….That is a promise that I make to you.”
He thanked those assembled for their sacrifice, saying he was in Alaska "to say to all of you, all of you who serve, all the families who are here, of all the privileges I have as president, I have no greater honor than serving as your Commander-in- Chief.”
He referenced the tragedy in Ft. Hood, Texas last week and again honored the lives of those lost in the shooting and those who put themselves in harm’s way to avoid further bloodshed. He also paid tribute to the servicemen and women from Elmendorf serving on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“There are no words that are strong enough and no tribute worthy to match the magnitude of your service. The American people thank you.”
Before his address, the President met with the family of a soldier who was killed in Afghanistan. He also met with about a dozen troops as he often does on visits to military bases, as a way to hear directly from service members about their experiences on the ground.
The first US president to have been born in Hawaii, the 50th state to join the United States, noted that this was his first time to Alaska, the 49th, and thus a milestone.
“Up until today I had visited 49 states, so this is officially my 50th state," he said.
From Alaska, the President flies to Tokyo, Japan where he’s expected to address a range of topics including climate change, the global economy and the North Korean nuclear issue. He’ll also thank the Japanese government for its renewed support to the international military effort in Afghanistan. That will be followed by stops in Singapore, China, and South Korea.