U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III visited soldiers and their families on Fort Bragg on Friday, a day before he will be the commencement speaker at Fayetteville State University.
The visit was to highlight the Defense Department’s focus on service to the nation, according to a news release from Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder.
Austin met with Army Forces Command leaders as well as families of the 82nd Airborne Division. He also visited Hampton Primary School, a child development center.
On Saturday, the secretary will deliver remarks during the Fayetteville State University commencement beginning at 9 a.m. at the Crown Events Center. His remarks will be live-streamed at https://www.defense.gov/.
Austin thanked the soldiers for choosing to serve, particularly in a division that's ready to go into combat at a moment's notice.
"My No. 1 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 said 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 said 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 Airborne 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 Friday, they expressed a number of concerns, particularly relating to the need for child care, as spaces are often hard to come by at Fort Bragg.