The military has forged a chain of honor and the leaders of today must ensure each generation of military leaders makes that chain stronger, President Joe Biden said at the Combatant Commanders Dinner at the White House last night.
The Commander-in-Chief meets with the assembled military and civilian leaders each year. The dinner is in conjunction with the Senior Leaders Conference at the Pentagon.
The president said the chain of honor becomes stronger when there are no artificial restraints on service. He noted the military is marking the 75th anniversary of President Harry S. Truman's executive order banning segregation in the military. It is also 75 years since women were integrated into the military. Finally, he noted it is 50 years since the all-volunteer force became a reality.
"Each one of you over the years — [knows] this chain has grown stronger," Biden said. "And as a mark of these milestones, … I challenge you to keep strengthening that chain in big and small ways — to keep sharpening our military edge in the field and across the forces, to keep taking on the challenges of today and tomorrow."
The president said it is not a hyperbole to state the U.S. military is the finest the world has ever seen. "I think other leaders around the world who don't share the same view as we do, are beginning to understand that," he said.
But the credit belongs to the men and women of the force. Defense leaders have a "sacred obligation … to prepare those we send into harm's way and take care of them and their families when they come home — and to care for them in a way that they deserve," the president said.
The president also thanked the commanders for their impressive leadership of the past year as Russia has continued its war on neighboring Ukraine. "You've armed, you've equipped, and you've trained a proud and brave Ukrainian army and helped them preserve their liberty and their democracy," he said. "I have to admit to you, I was a little bit surprised just how … courageous, how amazingly brave, not only the military is but … the Ukrainian people. They're just doing an incredible job."
He also noted the smooth process of evacuating the U.S. embassy in Khartoum, Sudan and "the treatment and capabilities and commitments of our armed forces helping American people anywhere in the world," Biden said. "You probably don't think about it, but you're just remarkable, remarkable, remarkable group of people."
"You continue to take terrorists off the battlefield with precision and professionalism, protecting our nation and our allies and interests against the enduring threat," he said. "And each and every day, you put our nation in the strongest possible strategic position around the world."
The president also noted the critical day-to-day work strengthening of American alliances from NATO to Japan and the Republic of Korea, the Philippines and Australia. This work continues even as the combat environment grows to include space and the cyber world.
Biden noted that two of the combatant commanders, Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the commander of U.S. European Command and Marine Corps Gen. Michael Langley of U.S. Africa Command, "couldn't be with us tonight because they're standing guard right now. They're at their posts, dealing with the war in Europe and the crisis in Sudan."
Biden also thanked the spouses and families of the commanders. "You also serve," he said. "You also sacrifice. You also strengthen our nation."
More than 50 defense and national security leaders attended the Combatant Commander Dinner. In addition to the combatant commanders and their spouses, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and the civilian leadership of the Defense Department also attended. The members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commandant of the Coast Guard were also there.