Good morning Minster Peleshi, General Begaj and distinguished guests.
I would like to particularly thank our host, General Kingji, for welcoming me to Zall Herr – the home of the Albanian Land Forces. Today is not just an opportunity to conduct a ceremony, but an opportunity to meet Albania’s new land force commander. General, I congratulate you on assuming this important role.
We are here to celebrate the delivery of 29 High Mobility Military Wheeled Vehicles, or “Humvees”, for the Albanian Armed Forces. These brand new vehicles will immediately improve the capabilities of the Albanian land forces at a critical time. This latest milestone is part of a priority project for the United States – to assist in the transition of Albania’s 2nd infantry battalion from a Light Infantry Battle Group to a Motorized Infantry Battle Group.
Albania’s commitment to prepare a Motorized Infantry Battle Group for NATO is significant. It reinforces the importance of NATO commitments, and reminds us that Albania stands ready to operate in dangerous places alongside allies. Once complete, this project will improve Albania’s ability to conduct internal defense missions, and deploy in support of global operations. The United States remains grateful that Albania has answered the call in multiple locations around the world.
This donation is also critical because we are in the final preparations for a historic event – Exercise Defender 21. Defender 21 is a multinational military exercise which will occur in Albania this summer, and Albania has been chosen to host significant aspects of the exercise. It will be the largest military exercise ever in southeast Europe, and will certainly showcase Albania’s importance in the region. We particularly look forward to seeing these vehicles take part in this premier training event.
I want to thank Minister Peleshi and General Begaj for their outstanding leadership, and I want to thank the staff of the Office of Defense Cooperation for their hard work in realizing this. Our mission is not yet done and I urge you to maintain the highest levels of cooperation.
It is truly an exciting time to be a soldier in the Albanian Armed Forces or U.S. soldier serving in Albania. We are honored to stand krah për krah with you and look forward to increased military cooperation in the months to come.