By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
AMMAN, Jordan, Feb. 5, 2013 – On the final leg of his six-day visit to Europe and the Middle East, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter met with military leaders and Jordan’s King Abdullah II here today, and praised U.S. forces stationed here during what he called a pivotal time for the region.
Carter spoke with young U.S. soldiers this afternoon before shaking their hands, giving them commemorative coins and posing with them in photographs.
The deputy secretary also expressed appreciation for Jordan as a premier U.S. ally lately burdened with caring for thousands of refugees fleeing over its borders to escape hunger, brutality and death rising in Syria since March 2011 by the clash between opposition fighters and the Bashar Assad regime.
“I’ve been in the region for several days, and around the region many times,” Carter told the soldiers. “The good news is that everybody wants to be a friend to the United States, … not only because we’re good at what we do, but because we’re good. And they like and value that -- none better than the Jordanians.”
In October, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced that Pentagon officials were working with Turkey and Jordan to help with collateral humanitarian and security issues affecting them because of Syria.
“We have been working with Jordan for a period of time now on a number of the issues that have developed as a result of what’s happening in Syria,” Panetta said during a news conference at the time.
Humanitarian relief was among those issues, as was help for Jordan in monitoring Syrian chemical and biological weapon sites and determining how best to respond if such weapons were used, the secretary added.
“We’ve also been working with [Jordan] to try to develop their own military and operational capabilities in the event of any contingency,” Panetta said.
“We have a group of our forces there,” he added, “working to help them build a headquarters and to ensure that we make the relationship between the United States and Jordan a strong one [to] deal with all the possible consequences” of the war in Syria.
In a cool and hazy Jordanian capital today, Carter started his day at the U.S. Embassy, where he met with Deputy Chief of Mission Stephanie Williams and received a briefing from the country team.
Afterward, in the embassy’s tiled circular courtyard, the deputy secretary greeted each of the seven Marine Corps guards, took photographs with them, gave them coins from his office, and thanked them for their service to the embassy and the nation.
He also chatted, shook hands and posed with several members of the embassy staff.
Carter later traveled to one of King Abdullah II’s royal palaces, Bab As-Salaam, meaning “the Gate of Peace.” Joining the king and the deputy secretary there were Dr. Fayez Tarawneh, chief of the Royal Diwan, or the main executive office of the king; Imad Fakhoury, the king’s office director; and Gen. Mashal al Zaben, chairman of defense.
Next, just before Carter spoke with Army troops at the military installation in Amman, he sat down for lunch there with 10 of the young soldiers working in Jordan to help with repercussions of the Syrian crisis.
One of the soldiers was Spc. Sarah Moyer, who has been in the Army for about 18 months and has five years to go on her contract. Moyer is a military police soldier from McDonough, Ga., who works in the security force on the Amman installation.
Moyer joined the Army initially to increase her education, she said.
“I know it betters you in a lot of ways. It increases your [physical training] and brings up morale and teaches you teamwork,” she noted. “A lot of main values you hold in the Army [convinced me] to join. So I’ll uphold those values and learn more about them.”
Marquise Washington is an information technology specialist from Los Angeles who joined the Army about a year ago when he was looking for a stable career. “I’ve had a good experience so far here in Jordan and in my military career,” the father of two said.
After lunch, Carter congratulated the soldiers on their courage and commitment and told them to keep up the good work.
“It’s sad what’s going on in Syria and what the Assad regime is doing and willing to do to its people,” he told the soldiers. “He’s on the wrong side of history and will lose and suffer the consequences in the end.
“I don’t know when that will be -- how many months or even years -- but that is a result that is inevitable,” Carter continued. “And … until that happens, your help is going to be needed and our help is going to be needed, and that’s what your mission is all about.”