By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Dec. 15, 2012 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff took a moment today to reflect on the two stops he's made on his annual USO holiday tour.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey praised troops for their service and sacrifices, and said the first two stops on the tour served to thank troops on behalf of himself and Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, his senior enlisted advisor.
“We've got a great group of entertainers, and the first [of] two stops we were able to see the sailors of the [USS] John C. Stennis, the carrier out of Washington state, who we asked to redeploy after only five months home,” he said.
“I wanted to make sure they knew how much we appreciate their flexibility and resilience,” Dempsey said. “And not only [them], but their families.”
“And so that stop was to say thanks to them, on behalf of all the many, many mariners we've got sailing around the globe, promoting our interests,” he added.
The chairman also wanted to recognize the servicemen and women who serve at an austere outpost in Kyrgyzstan. They receive little recognition, he said, but their work has a great impact on the war effort in Afghanistan.
“We just left … Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan, outside of the capital of Bishkek,” Dempsey said. “It's one of those places in our military that does an incredible amount of work, with not much fanfare.
“Here's about 1,600 [people], mostly airmen, but all services, who are there helping us move, mostly our personnel, but also some cargo, in and out of Afghanistan,” he continued. “And also, they provide about 33 percent of our aerial refuel capability for Afghanistan, so I wanted to stop there.”
The chairman said he has visited the transit center before. And at this time of year, he said, he experienced the extreme cold temperatures in which the troops assigned there must work in as they carry out their missions.
“I found out Kyrgyzstan is … particularly beautiful this time of year but really cold,” Dempsey said. “And those airmen, soldiers, sailors and Marines who work up there, work in some pretty harsh conditions, but get the job done.”
This year's USO tour includes the talents of Washington Nationals Major League Baseball players Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen; Matt Hendricks, a Washington Capitals' National Hockey League player; comedian Iliza Schlesinger, winner of NBC's Last Comic Standing and country music singer Kellie Pickler and her band.
Also, USO President Sloan D. Gibson is accompanying the tour, along with Shane Hudella, who is part of “Defending the Blue Line,” an organization that donates hockey equipment to military families.
“We've got a great group of entertainers,” Dempsey emphasized. “Sergeant Major [Bryan B.] Battaglia and I are privileged to be able to make this trip, introduce these entertainers to the young men and women who serve, and thank them during the holiday season.”