To His Excellency Lieutenant General Chea Saran, Major General Dorman, senior leaders of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, members of the international military attaché corps in attendance, and our other distinguished visitors present today, good morning and thank you for inviting me to attend this very important event. To the officers, noncommissioned officers, and soldiers of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and the United States Army on the field before me today, you look outstanding, and I deeply appreciate the preparation and training that went into not just today’s ceremony, but in your day-to-day dedication to military service. I feel privileged to be in your company.
Driving through the entrance to this Training Center for Multinational Peacekeeping Forces, being saluted smartly by the guards at the gate, and finally arriving here at the event site filled with uniformed troops in formation has been an exciting experience. Seeing military discipline raises people’s expectations, as it conveys a sense of purpose and the ability to make things happen, even under challenging circumstances.
Regarding expectations of military forces, I believe the Angkor Sentinel exercise that begins today showcases some of the best kinds of things militaries accomplish for their nations and citizens. Angkor Sentinel’s activities will include training and exchanges covering humanitarian assistance, disaster response, first aid, engineering, explosive ordnance disposal, countering improvised explosive devices, transporting people and supplies, and developing leaders. Any country, including both Cambodia and the U.S., will be better, safer places to live with military people who are skilled in these functions.
Take, for example, in 2015 when Tropical Storm Vamco caused flooding and wind damage in multiple provinces of Cambodia, from Kep and Kampot all the way to Pailin. The Royal Cambodian Armed Forces were there to provide emergency relief and assist in re-building efforts. When disasters like these threaten vast areas and populations, the government can turn to the military for whole units of men and women ready to mobilize and take part in whatever emergency response the local community needs. Soldiers volunteer and train to take on physical demands and danger beyond what can be asked of a regular citizen. They are also organized and equipped for a contingency environment: when people and places must be reached where the roads are damaged or perhaps even under flood waters, they have the trucks and boats to get there. Military forces are an important asset for Cambodia when they demonstrate, through this kind of public service, their professional dedication to serve all citizens regardless of who they are or where they come from. And indeed, all Cambodians benefit from having a professional national military with soldiers who are organized, equipped, and mentally and physically trained and ready to respond in extreme situations.
I would also like to recognize that the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces are not limited just to bringing safety and security to Cambodians—they are in fact exporters of these same benefits to war-torn areas and vulnerable populations worldwide. 2016 marks the tenth year that Cambodia has been a troop-contributing country to United Nations peacekeeping operations. I congratulate the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces on this achievement, which only highly trained and capable military forces can deploy to accomplish. People in far-off locations like South Sudan, Chad, Mali, and Lebanon—to name only a few—owe their gratitude to peacekeeping forces from Cambodia for risking their safety to participate in United Nations operations there.
These examples I’ve just mentioned are some of the reasons why the U.S. is proud to be partnered with the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces for the Angkor Sentinel exercise. Both of our countries’ soldiers will become more skilled, more familiar with working with each other, and more prepared to deliver peace and security wherever today’s increasingly unpredictable weather events, geo-political situations, and other natural and manmade crises demand. I wish great success to all participants in Angkor Sentinel 2016, and I hope for further opportunities for the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and the United States military to cooperate.