by Spc. Patrick Curtin
FORT BLISS, Texas (Army News Service, Oct. 5, 1998)--Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera visited the Air Defense Artillery Center Friday for an overview of the new role of the Army Missile Defense Command and a briefing on the Theater High Altitude Area Defense system. He also spoke at several functions, including Fort Bliss' Hispanic Heritage observance.
Caldera met with soldiers of a THAAD battery and talked about the importance of this new air defense technology.
"I want to take a moment to underscore my tremendous support for THAAD," Caldera said. "If we had THAAD available today we would deploy it to protect our forces in Korea and everywhere else. We would send them throughout the world. With the missile launches that have happened in Pakistan, Korea and China, it becomes more important than ever that we be able to provide that kind of protection to our soldiers in the field."
Caldera praised the soldiers assigned to the THAAD system.
"The soldiers I visited today are ready to put it in the field," Caldera said. "They are trained and ready to use it."
Caldera also counseled patience with the development problems THAAD has faced.
"While there have been some failures as we go about this, remember there were failures when the Wright brothers first tried to put an aircraft into the air," Caldera said. "There were failures when we first tried to put men on the moon. The thing you have to do is learn from those mistakes, go back and improve constantly."
Caldera attributed some of the problems to a pressing need for the THAAD system that had greatly accelerated its development, thus cutting down on the time available for the normal testing new weapon systems go through.
After touring the THAAD facilities, Caldera spoke to the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy Class 49. He spoke about the crucial importance of the noncommissioned officer corps in maintaining a trained army. He also awarded Master Sgt. Maria Martinez, a student at the academy, with a special award recognizing her work mentoring and tutoring Hispanic students.
After speaking at the academy, Caldera addressed Fort Bliss community leaders at a luncheon. He talked about his role as the secretary of the Army and about issues such as readiness, modernization and quality of life.
Caldera also was a featured speaker at the Fort Bliss Hispanic Heritage observance.
"I'm delighted I could be here at Fort Bliss on a day in which you are celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month," Caldera said. "This tradition of ethnic observances which our nation has embraced to honor different groups ... is a wonderful opportunity for us to recall the service different groups have provided to our country.
"Today we recall, especially the United States Army, the proud service that Hispanic-Americans have rendered to our country. They have fought in our nation's wars since the Revolutionary War, and in every conflict since then. The valor and courage of Hispanic-Americans is reflected in their achievements on the battlefield, including 37 Medal of Honor winners, the largest single group of any minority ... it is a proud record and a proud legacy."
(Editor's note: Spc Curtin is with the public affairs element of Task Force 2-43 at Fort Bliss)