Italy: Leon E. Panetta Visits NAS Sigonella


Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta visited U.S. and Coalition service members on board Naval Air Station (NAS) Sigonella Oct. 7 during a overseas tour that consisted of stops in Israel, Egypt, Belgium and Italy.

The purpose of the stop was to thank not only the U.S. service members, but also Italian and Coalition forces for their support during operations in Libya.

Operation Unified Protector is the NATO-led mission that succeeded Operation Odyssey Dawn, established to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.

U.S. and Coalition service members gathered on the flight line as Panetta described the operations as a true Coalition effort.

“I have to tell you that at the time that this mission was embarked on, there were a lot of critics about whether it was the right mission at the right time with the right force; whether NATO could do the job. There were a lot of questions about the mission overall, and I think the critics have been proven wrong. NATO came together effectively, came together quickly, operations were put together effectively – and this was a complicated mission. There’s no questions about it,” said Panetta.

“In Sigonella, nations came together to conduct complex operations that have not only protected the lives of innocent civilians, but have served to demonstrate the remarkable capacities resident in each nation’s forces,” said Capt. Scott Butler, NAS Sigonella commanding officer. “The historic deployments by Sweden and UAE, along with the efforts of our traditional NATO partners, are game-changers. From this base, a military force whose composition is unique in the modern age, prosecuted enemy targets with great precision and, as the Secretary said, made the world a safer place for our children. There can be no higher calling.”

“Sigonella was extremely important to the mission that was conducted in Libya, and all of you know the tremendous role that was played by each of you in that mission,” said Panetta.

Source: navy, October 09, 2011