Just a few moments after landing in the United Kingdom on June 9 to kick off his first foreign trip as President of the United States, Joe Biden took to a stage in a hangar at RAF Mildenhall, U.K., and delivered an address to hundreds of U.S. Airmen and their families.
Speaking for more than 20 minutes, Biden praised the service of the Airmen while reflecting on his own military connections, tying the two together as he offered a sharp defense of democratic values and spoke on his goals for the visit overseas.
Members of the 100th Air Refueling Wing, the 352nd Special Operations Wing, 48th Fighter Wing, 501st Combat Support Wing, and 95th Reconnaissance Squadron were all present for Biden’s speech, as he remarked that he was “so damn proud” of the service members.
“We owe you. We owe you big. I’ve long said that as a nation, we have many obligations, but we only have one truly sacred obligation, only one. That’s to properly prepare and equip the women and men we send into harm’s way, and to care for you and your families, both while you’re deployed, and when you come home,” Biden said.
Both Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden took time to pay tribute to military families as well, citing their own experience with their son Beau, who served in the Army National Guard and was deployed to Iraq for a year.
“Everyone in this room knows that our military families are essential, essential to our strength. It’s the key reason Jill relaunched Joining Forces, to make sure we’re doing everything we can to support military spouses and children and their mothers and fathers as well,” Biden said.
Much of Biden’s speech focused on his foreign policy and national security objectives, as he pledged to reiterate the U.S.’s support for traditional alliances with the U.K. and NATO, take on climate change as a security threat, build up infrastructure across countries, and establish norms of conduct in cyberspace while combating ransomware.
Biden also took a quick jab at Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he is set to meet at the tail end of his trip, saying he would “let him know what I want him to know.” He built on those comments later, hitting upon the theme of democracy overcoming the challenges of modernization. And in doing so, he made reference to the Air Force.
“You can send more fuel through a boom of a KC-135R in eight minutes than a civilian gas pump can pump in 24 hours. And you do it in midair, and it’s all a normal day for this team,'” Biden said. “So don’t tell me we can’t win our race to the future across the board.”