Jimmy Carter photo

Fort Hood, Texas Informal Exchange With Reporters.

June 24, 1978

REPORTER. Mr. President, what's the, message here today?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, one of the responsibilities that I have, perhaps, potentially the most important, is to be the Commander in Chief of all the Armed Forces. And it's important for me to know what our military forces can do, to see the efficiency that they can demonstrate when I am present, the planning that they go into to show their capabilities to defend our country when I am coming.

I think it's also important for them to know that I appreciate their ability and for our friends and allies and our potential adversaries to know that I have this intense interest in maintaining the level of training and the capability of which our Armed Forces are obviously capable.

I might say that I thought the exercise this morning was both impressive in its execution and also in its planning. And I'm very proud of what this group has been able to do. This is General Patton's old division, and they showed that they've upheld the standards that he set for them in the last great war.

Q. You know, a lot of people have seen this in Vietnam, and over there it didn't work. Is there a danger that a field exercise might be a little distorted, because it isn't real battlefield conditions?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you have to plan for all different kinds of terrain. When I was in Panama last weekend, that intense jungle just north of the Panama Canal is where we trained for jungle warfare. And I think that this would be very close to the kind of terrain that you would find in some open areas. And I think the coordination of the operation among the helicopters, the tanks, the personnel carriers, the guided missiles, and other weapons is a very important test, no matter what the terrain might be.

These men who are in this division also go to other places in our country which would be similar to the different kinds of terrain that they might face throughout the world. But I think the most important thing is for them to know that the President is interested in them and appreciates the high level of training that they've shown and also that I, most of the time confined to my duties in Washington, am able to learn what these men can do, what our equipment can do, as I have already done with the nuclear aircraft carriers, the submarines, the strategic command airplane, and the SAC Base out in Omaha.

I'm very interested in it, and I want the Nation and the world to know about my interest. So, it's a very good exercise for me, I think a good exercise for these men and women, and also a good exercise for our country.

Q. Mr. President, what about the cost? Do you think it's justified?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think it's completely justified. These men have maneuvers to perform. They have to stay at a high level of training. Each one of them has to be familiar with the actual firing of live ammunition and operating under those kinds of circumstances, and the fact that I could be here during the time when they have a major maneuver or exercise is a very good conjunction. It's certainly worth the expenditure of funds just for my own education, because I'm faced every day with the requirement to either approve or disapprove the expenditure of funds for these kinds of weapons or others that might replace them.

I need to know the level of operation capability of them. And it gives me a chance also to learn the special attitude of the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Army and, also, the generals and others who command these forces. So, I would say it's a very important requirement of my job, a very important requirement of the jobs of the military, and whatever expenditure of funds was involved is well worth it.

Note: The exchange began at 3:05 p.m. at Blackwell Mountain, site of the Army's firepower demonstration.

Jimmy Carter, Fort Hood, Texas Informal Exchange With Reporters. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/248951

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