Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met with paratroopers and family members of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The secretary thanked the soldiers for choosing to serve, particularly in a division that’s ready to go into combat at a moment’s notice.
“My number one priority is to defend this country. My second priority is to take care of people. I want to make sure that you have the resources that you need to be successful, that you’re getting the right training, that you got the leaders that you need to be successful as well,” he said.
Austin mentioned that he talks to President Joe Biden at least a couple of times every week and the president always asks: “Are we doing enough for our troops? And what more do they need? Are we taking care of their families?”
The secretary also mentioned that he and other leaders are committed to making sure families are being taken care of.
On another note, Austin said “Part of being ready is making sure that you’re looking out for your wing-man and your wing-woman. Make sure you’re paying attention to your teammates who are having issues or problems. Be there for them. Talk to them. Help them get the help that they need. … Don’t be afraid to seek help. If you see somebody you think needs help, don’t hesitate, put your arm around him and say, ‘let me help you.'”
The 82nd legacy continues, Austin said. “Be proud of who you are; America’s best, America’s finest. We sent you a lot of places in the past. We’re going to call on you again. And when we call you again, my expectation is that you’ll be ready.”
A senior defense official said that during Austin’s conversation with family members today, they expressed a number of concerns, particularly relating to the need for childcare, as spaces are often hard to come by, particularly at Fort Bragg.
The official said that the Defense Department has been in talks with installations that lack child care workers and is looking at ways to increase their numbers. Bumping up salaries for those workers is one option.
The official said the secretary is committed to helping families and that is the major focus of this trip.