(As prepared for delivery – January 29, 2018)
Six months ago, three U.S. Marines tragically lost their lives when their MV22 Osprey aircraft entered the water off the coast of Queensland.
Just days before, these young men and their crewmates on board the USS Bonhomme Richard had been proud participants in what had been yet another great U.S.–Australian success story—the seventh iteration of Exercise Talisman Sabre.
The loss of three young lives last August was a tragedy for their families, for their friends, for their ship mates, and for the U.S. Marine Corps.
But the response to this disaster demonstrated the basis for our joint engagement in Talisman Sabre—the remarkable bond and goodwill between the U.S. and Australian people.
The outpouring of support and offers of recovery assistance came at all levels: from Minister Payne’s immediate contact with Secretary Mattis; to the Governor and Premier of Queensland; the Joint Operations Command coordination staff; the operational personnel working in trying conditions in and on the water; and every person in between.
The bonds between our citizens speak to the strategic priorities behind this vital alliance, and late last year, America’s new National Security Strategy again reinforced our forward approach to this region.
The U.S. will redouble its commitment to our Indo–Pacific partners and we will expand our relationships with other countries in the region who share those interests that, like Australia, we hold dear—values such as respect for sovereignty and the rule of law.
Allied cooperation is critical as we resist and deter threats to our values when they arise in our region, and Talisman Sabre is but one example of how we are deepening our cooperative partnership.
I am honored to have this opportunity today to thank you all for your generosity, professionalism and commitment in response to last year’s tragic event. Your tireless efforts reinforced what we have long known—that America has no greater friend. Congratulations to Rear Admiral Rothwell and to all the Australian personnel and Units receiving this Meritorious Unit Commendation.