WASHINGTON — The service members at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, are performing demanding duty without complaint as they represent the United States, First Lady Michelle Obama told troops on the base today.
Joined by late night talk show host Conan O'Brien and other entertainers to perform a USO-style show, Obama visited the base to show her support for its 11,000 troops during her visit to Qatar and Jordan this week, where she is promoting education for adolescent girls, officials said.
Three dozen troops were selected by their commanders based on merit to meet the first lady. Obama also arranged an ice cream social with a small group of airmen.
She recognized Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, U.S. Air Forces Central Command and commander, and Air Force Brig. Gen. Darren James, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing commander.
"I didn't grow up in a military family," she said. "I came to know this community when my husband was running his first campaign, and I met amazing men and women who were serving and sacrificing, and doing it without complaint, and doing it with pride. I am so incredibly grateful for what you do."
Base Troops Provide Critical Work
Installations like Al Udeid Air Base are absolutely critical for U.S. national security, Obama told the audience.
"At this base, you're flying a record number of sorties. I understand you're distributing record amounts of fuel to enable those planes to fly … [and] you guys are running the largest DFAC operation in the region," she said to applause.
"I want the world, the country to know is that you all have some serious skills," the first lady said. "It's no joke to be here doing what you do." The nation owes its servicemen and servicewomen a debt of gratitude, the first lady said.
"We serve you as well as you serve our country, no matter when, no matter where, and no matter what," she said. "That also means supporting you while you're on this base … and ensuring that people back home know how extraordinary the sacrifices you all are making are to keep us safe."
Most importantly, she added, it means honoring and supporting service members' families, because they, too, are serving and sacrificing back home and many are dealing with a second or third deployment.
"Not everybody knows that. We know that's what's on your mind. You're wondering how your mom and dad are doing; how much they miss you and how much you miss them. What's going to happen for the holidays? I know," Obama said.
Joining Forces Supports Troops, Families, Vets
Obama said she and Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, started the Joining Forces service member, military family and veteran support campaign "because we wanted to rally Americans to honor and support not just you, but your families … to take some of the worries off your plates."
Over the past four-and-a-half years since Joining Forces launched, people have constantly answered the call, including governors and legislators who changed laws for service members, helped their spouses get jobs, Obama said.
"Doctors and nurses and medical schools are improving health care for you and your families. Hundreds of mayors are working to end veterans' homelessness in their cities right now and many of them have already done it. Our view is that in our country, even one homeless veteran is an outrage," she said.
Military Veterans Make Great Employees
All across the nation, she added, companies have hired or trained more than 850,000 veterans and military spouses.
"Because what they are learning and what we're trying to shine that light on is that you all are some of the best-trained people we have in our country," the first lady said.
She said military veterans are ready to work and want to continue serving, having managed and run some of the toughest projects in some of the hardest places to work on earth.
"So [civilian employers] just need to know you're out there so that when you're done with this, there's a job waiting for you," Obama said to applause. But even with such achievements through Joining Forces, the first lady said, the initiative is not close to being finished.
"But we're going to keep working to ensure that you and your families have the jobs you deserve, that the benefits that you've earned are waiting for you ready, and the support this nation owes you," she said. "That's not just my vow to you as first lady. It's my vow to you for the rest of my life. It's important for me that you know that your commander in chief and your first lady [are] proud of you."
The first lady thanked the service members for their outstanding service, positive attitudes and humor.
"And thank you for allowing me to come and share this time with you. You've really lifted my spirits, as always."
According to a statement acquired by Entertainment Weekly, "Highlights of O'Brien's Middle East journey will be seen on an episode of TBS late-night talk show "Conan" that will air before the end of the year."