SOUTH CHINA SEA (NNS) -- Secretary of Defense Ash Carter visited the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), Nov. 5, and met with Sailors and Marines to thank them for their service following more than 8 months at sea.
During the visit, Carter received a brief covering the operations of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group; held a brief press conference; met with Cmdr. Robert Francis, commanding officer of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG-82); and spoke with a group of 200 Sailors and Marines.
During his press conference, Carter discussed the U.S. role in security operations in the region.
"The American approach to the security structure for Asia is an inclusive one. I believe that discussions with China, military-to-military contact with China, and making sure that nobody does anything or has any misunderstandings, is all a critical part of the job of keeping peace and stability out here," said Carter. "We're not trying to make divisions. We want China to be part of the security system of Asia; not to stand apart from it."
Speaking to the crew, Carter thanked them for their service and noted the impact they have had on events around the world.
"I am so proud to be your secretary of defense. You have been at the hinge of everything happening in the strategic history of this era," said Carter. "First off, you were part of the ISIL fight. That was when you were in the Middle East. Now you are in a completely different part of the world. If you look around this region, there is no NATO. There is no structure that keeps the peace in Asia, and yet half of humanity lives here; half of the world's economy is here. So it is a place of great consequence for America's future and security. We are what creates reassurance, brings people together, and stops the animosity that is very real among these countries."
Following his speech, Carter presented coins to the crew in attendance as more than 200 Sailors and Marines lined up to shake the defense secretary's hand.
"He was very knowledgeable on the region. It was definitely interesting to have him put it in perspective for us," said Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Joseph Evans. "It was nice hearing that someone actually knows and cares about what's going on with our military."
Theodore Roosevelt is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as part of a worldwide deployment en route to its new homeport in San Diego to complete a three-carrier homeport shift.
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