Obama thanks Camp Pendleton Marines as war’s end nears

He said March’s across-the-board budget cuts need to be revised to ensure adequate funding for defense, as well as for education, science, medical research and infrastructure, in his remarks while visiting the Southern California base.

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President Barack Obama delivers remarks during his visit to Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base Wednesday.

By MARTIN WISCKOL and ERIKA I. RITCHIE / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

CAMP PENDLETON – President Barack Obama praised Marines for their crucial role in bringing the country to the “final chapter” of the war in Afghanistan during a speech Wednesday at the West Coast’s largest Marine base, and also took the opportunity to rally support for his upcoming battle with Congress to roll back sequestration budget cuts.

Handing over security responsibilities to Afghan troops in June marked a key turning point, which will culminate with the final withdrawal of battle troops in 2014, he said.

However, the president warned that threats against the United States would continue and that it was necessary to maintain a strong military. To do so, he said March’s across-the-board budget cuts need to be revised to ensure adequate funding for defense, as well as for education, science, medical research and infrastructure.

“Congress needs to agree to a responsible plan that reduces our deficit but also keeps our military strong, also invests in education, also invests in research, also invests in our infrastructure,” Obama said in his 25-minute midday speech in an aircraft hangar. “That’s what you deserve. That’s what your families deserves. That’s what I’m fighting for and that’s my commitment to you.”

 

The crowd of 3,000 Marines, sailors and family members – each of who requested to attend the event – ­loudly applauded the statement. However, Obama faces an uphill effort this fall in convincing congressional Republicans, who would like to restore some defense spending but have largely opposed easing other sequester cuts or increasing tax revenues.

 

Obama emphasized the defense portion of the cuts Wednesday.

 

“Here at Pendleton, you’re feeling it,” he said. “Hardworking folks are getting furloughed, families getting by on less, fewer ships available for your training exercises, the commissary your families rely on closed a day a week.  We can do better than that. That’s not how a great nation should be treating its military and military families.”

 

Among those that message likely hit home with was Martin Torresloya, 24, supply sergeant with the 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion. He said he’s already seeing the effects from sequestration. The battalion’s amphibious assault vehicle is 40-years-old and requires constant maintenance and repairs. Yet, the vehicle is one of the Marine Corps greatest assets to facilitate sea-to-land assaults.

 

“If you compare it to last year, you can see the difference in orders for parts,” he said. “We’re doing what we can with what we have.”