Mar-a-Lago Palm Beach, Florida December 24 9:05 A.M. EST
Hello, everyone, and I want to wish you an amazing Christmas and a Happy New Year. You're tremendous warriors, and we appreciate it so much. We're in Florida right now, speaking to you through this technological advance that's been made - that's been incredible, what they've been able to do over the last number of years. Incredible. We'll be talking to you in a little while, and you'll be asking me some questions.
We have a lot of the media right here - our friends from the media. Dear, dear friends from the media. Sometimes they're good.
But we're honored to be joined on this call by five units deployed all across the world, representing the branches of our armed forces. We have - as you know, we have a new branch that's joining us; it will be Space Force. We don't have them represented quite yet, but that will be very soon. We're going to have a sixth branch of the military. That's the first time in 70 years a new branch will be coming on. That's going to be very exciting.
Because of your brave and selfless service, Americans can celebrate Christmas in safety and in peace. And we all appreciate what you do so much, and we thank you very much.
To begin our call, I'd like to recognize Captain Roxanna Flores and the U.S. Army's 103rd Sustainment Command, joining us all the way from Kuwait. The "Cactus Soldiers," as they're called, are supporting a wartime force of over 25,000 service members and civilians undertaking sustainment operations in 12 different countries. And you do an incredible job.
Across the Middle East, our warfighters win only with the relentless determination and unsurpassed devotion that we have - they have. It's incredible the job they do. And thank you very much. And we'll go back to Roxanna in a little while, and we'll ask a couple of questions and she'll have some questions for us.
We also have with us sailors abroad the USS Forrest Sherman, a destroyer under the command of Commander Frank Azzarello, joining us from the Gulf of Aden. You're stop - clandestine - and this is what you're doing so well, that you're able to stop clandestine weapon smuggling - at a record number, by the way -escort tankers, and keep the seas safe for America and our allies in the highest tradition of our great Navy.
And our Navy is doing really well. We just approved a record budget for our Navy. Lots of new ships and lots of new everything. I want to thank you for your constant vigilance. And we'll get back to you in a second, too.
I also welcome the great Marines, sailors, and soldiers of Task Force Southwest 19.2, who are stationed in Camp Shorab, in Afghanistan. Brigadier General David Odom - thank you very much, General. Your brilliant team is vital to training, advising, and assisting our friends in the Afghan military. Your intelligence and security operations are second to none. And we're making a lot of progress there. As you know, we're also reducing troop force, because we don't need what we had there. And we reduced troop force, and are in the process of doing that very significantly. Thank you very much, General.
Back in the United States, we're joined by the 20th Attack Squadron at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri - a great state. Greetings to Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Wassmuth and all of the airmen on the air base. You're crushed - and you know what happened recently. You helped us so much and won very, very big. You crushed ISIS from the air, kept the Taliban running scared, and conducted countless lethal airstrikes against the enemies of freedom. You are an incredible group, and we are supremely grateful for your service and the job you do. What happened with ISIS was incredible. As you know, we took over 100 percent of the caliphate and destroyed them. That doesn't mean they don't come back in smaller sections. And we handle them as they come back. But we had 100 percent.
And al-Baghdadi is dead. The leader of ISIS - the founder of ISIS - is dead. His replacement is now dead. And we have our sights on the new replacement. I don't know why anybody would want that job, frankly.
Finally, we have with us - we have with us a captain, who is somebody that is so highly respected, Michael Frawley. Everyone in the Coast Guard Air Station Sitka in Alaska, we want to thank you for your work. You conduct daring rescues in treacherous mountain slides and towering waves. Thank you for being our faithful guardians.
And you really have. You know, the Coast Guard, with the work they've done during hurricane season, two years ago, in Texas - in particular, Texas - because they saved 16,000 lives. Nobody understands what that means - 16,000 . Even me - I heard that number, and I said, "Can that be possible? Sixteen thousand." They served 16,000 lives - and saved. And these are people out at sea, these are people on the land, where we had that massive - probably the largest amount of water ever to come onshore from a hurricane. Went out - it went out; it came back. It went out; it came back. Then a third time, it went out; it came back. And the Coast Guard was there. You saved 16,000 people.
Then you had Florida. Then you had Puerto Rico. I mean, you were very busy. And I don't think anybody's stock has gone up like the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard has been incredible. And we really appreciate the job you've done. Saved thousands of lives.
But this Christmas, I hope that every member of our military will feel the overwhelming love and gratitude of our nation for your faithful service. Starting January 1st, you'll be getting your largest pay raise in more than a decade. You don't have to take it. If you want, you can turn it back in to the government. But we got you a good pay raise last year. We're going to get you an even better pay raise this year. And it will be largest in over a decade, and you very much earned it.
And don't worry, I'm only kidding when I say turn it back, because the press will cover that. They'll say, "He wants them to turn the pay rise back." No, I got it for you. Keep it and spend it well.
Once again, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Now, let's get onto the discussion with some of our folks. And maybe we'll start with Captain Flores of the United States Army.
Good morning and happy holidays, Mr. President. I am Captain Roxanna Flores, and on behalf of the soldiers of the 103rd Sustainment Command Expeditionary, we would like to wish you and your entire family a very Merry Christmas. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with us today. It is a true honor and privilege, sir.
Mr. President, the morale here in Kuwait is high. And today, I sit here surrounded by a group of outstanding leaders that represent our over 200-soldier formation, consisting of Army Reserve soldiers that are coming together from over 32 different states, all brought together one month before deployment. And that is thanks to the company leadership of Captain Shelby Peters and First Sergeant Trenton Byler.
Mr. President, also here in the room, we have our highly-dedicated soldiers, like Sergeant Jonathan Ochoa and Specialist Robert Wallace.
And finally, Mr. President, we have Specialist Bret Nyquist, who has been dying for at least a week to ask you a question, if that's okay with you.
Go ahead. Whatever you want. (Laughter.)
Good morning, Mr. President.
I hope - I hope it's not too good, but that's okay. (Laughter.) Whatever you want. Please.
It's not too good. My name is - my name is Specialist Bret Nyquist. I'm an Intelligence Analyst from Des Moines, Iowa. A lot of us here at Camp Arifjan have been wondering: What did you get Mrs. Trump for Christmas this year?
Oh, that's a tough question. (Laughter.) Well, I - I really should say, "A very beautiful card." You know, I'm working on a lot - (laughter) - I got her a beautiful card, but actually I had a number of them picked and I picked the nicest one. A lot of love, and we love our family and we love each other. And we've had a great relationship, like you do, hopefully, with your spouses. But we've had a great relationship.
And I think I'll answer that by saying I'm still working on the Christmas present. Is that okay? (Laughter.) There's a little time left.
Me too, Mr. President.
Not too much, but there's a little time left. (Laughter.) Thank you very much.
Right. Thank you.
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