EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE - President Bush praised the soldiers and airmen gathered to hear him speak Monday.
Bush listed by name some of the area's principal units: Task Force 49 and the Stryker Brigade at Fort Wainwright, the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson and the Alaska Air National Guard's 168th Air Refueling Wing, also stationed at Eielson.
"I'm an old Guard pilot myself," Bush noted in a speech that was routinely punched with enthusiastic applause.
Of the Stryker Brigade, Bush talked of their toughness: "They train in 50 below and fight in 120 above," he said.
He also acknowledged the forthcoming deployment of the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Wainwright. The deployment will be the second of a Stryker Brigade out of Fort Wainwright; the last went for 16 months.
"I fully understand that a Stryker Brigade will soon deploy to Iraq," Bush said. "The other day I made it clear that our policy on rotations is 12 months in, 12 months out.
"I know the Stryker Brigade from Fort Wainwright was one of the first brigades to extend, and I understand it put stress on the families," he said. "Because of the progress we are making in Iraq, there is now certainty in the rotation."
Bush spoke of how he believes Iraq has changed.
"The Stryker Brigade we are sending to Iraq will be heading into a different situation than the previous Stryker Brigade when they first went into Iraq," Bush said. "About a year ago people thought Iraq was lost, hopeless. People were saying, "Let's get out of there. It doesn't matter to our national security.'
"Iraq's changed a lot, thanks to the bravery of the people in this hangar and the bravery of troops all across our country," Bush said.
Before the speech, the president and his wife greeted commanders from both Eielson and Fort Wainwright shortly after landing at the base near Fairbanks.
Bush also met Caroline Wolf, a volunteer at the Literacy Council of Alaska who is to receive the President's Volunteer Service Award. The award is given to a local volunteer when Bush travels throughout the United States.
As a member of AmeriCorps, Wolfe has taught 575 hours of classes to students from 34 countries in the last two years.
The president then made the short walk into Eielson's hangar, where he began addressing assembled military personnel.
Gov. Sarah Palin, U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and other state and local dignitaries also attended.
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