San Diego Union Tribune | May 15, 2009

Biden offers encouraging words

Vice president Joe Biden used some of his time yesterday on the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan to outline several measures in the economic stimulus package, including construction projects on military bases. (John Gibbins / Union-Tribune)

Vice President Joe Biden spent the day with Navy personnel yesterday, thanking them for their service and announcing plans to expand homeowners assistance to military families with $555 million from the economic stimulus package.

Speaking aboard the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, docked at Coronado Naval Base, Biden said military families and civilian Defense Department employees who recently sold their homes at a loss are in particular need of financial assistance.

“In the middle of a credit and housing crisis, we recognize that military families cannot generally choose, to put it mildly, when they move,” he said.

The vice president outlined other measures in the stimulus package for construction projects on military bases.

“That’s why the Recovery Act which you read about includes more than $7 billion, in addition to the regular yearly budget . . . for military construction projects: new hospitals, child care centers, better housing at all our defense installations across this entire country.”

Bases on Coronado will receive $138 million for 11 new projects, he said, which include a new bachelors’ quarters and a round-the-clock child care center.

Biden spoke from a podium in the middle of the Ronald Reagan flight deck facing a sea of sailors on the deck with hundreds more looking down from upper decks and stairways.

“Folks, those of you assembled before me in uniform, your generation is the most powerful, best disciplined, best-trained group of warriors the United States of America has ever produced. And don’t you ever forget it. Give yourselves a round of applause because you deserve it,” he said.

After his speech, Biden had lunch of turkey, vegetables, rice and a Pepsi with sailors on the Reagan’s mess deck.

There, Food Service Officer Arnie Limon presented Biden and wife, Jill, with two of the ship’s executive chef jackets bearing the carrier’s seal.

Later in the afternoon, the vice president toured two other Navy units in Coronado: the Special Warfare Training Center where future Navy SEALs are trained and Explosive Ordinance Disposal Mobile Unit 3, a unit that disarms bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sporting a “USS Ronald Reagan” cap with “VPOTUS” stitched on the back, Biden hailed the SEALs as ideally suited for the modern era of warfare.

“The wars of the 21st century are going to be wars based on chaos, war based on a failed state, wars as a consequence of terrorism and the availability of means that never existed before in all of history for terrorists to be able to have access to,” he said. “So, fellows, it’s you guys, it’s you guys we’re looking to.”

Biden said American special forces such as the Navy SEALs are the best warriors ever.

“Let these guys in your fathers’ and grandfathers’ generations talk about their generations,” he said. “Well, they ain’t seen anybody as bad-ass as you guys.”

At the nearby explosives unit, the vice president was given a demonstration of equipment used to find and dismantle roadside bombs in Iraq.

“You’re crazy,” he said. “You guys are good.”

He added, “What you guys do is amazing. You risk your lives and you save lives.”

While the vice president toured the SEAL and explosives installations, Jill Biden met aboard the Ronald Reagan with 12 service members’ spouses and roughly 60 representatives of military support groups. Those organizations included the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Armed Services YMCA, United Service Organizations, Fleet and Family Services Center Ombudsman Program, United Through Reading, Homefront San Diego, Yellow Ribbon Team and Warrior Foundation.

In the evening, Biden attended a fundraising reception for the Democratic National Committee at the Point Loma home of Jeffrey and Marcy Krinsk where he vigorously defended President Barack Obama’s aggressive and comprehensive agenda against critics who say the administration is moving too quickly on too many fronts.

“No president has moved so fast to deal with so many monumental challenges facing the country,” he said. “There is not a single solitary issue, foreign or domestic, that the president has on his plate that allows for non-action.”

The vice president continues his West Coast swing today in Los Angeles, where he will hold an event to highlight more details of the economic stimulus package.

-By John Marelius