KINGS BAY, Ga. – During a visit to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay on Wednesday afternoon, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told the sailors he was there for three reasons: to thank them, to thank their families and, most importantly, to listen to what the men and women who serve on America's submarine have to say.
Hagel encouraged the men and women in the submarine service to follow their dreams and stay true to themselves.
This base is home to the Atlantic Fleet's ballistic and guided missile submarines. Hagel told the sailors the country should be proud of their efforts.
"They're doing such a good job," Hagel said. "We rely on them; the American people rely on them to do the job we expect them to do, and they do it brilliantly."
Hagel told the assembled men and women they may not always get the attention they deserve, but that's a testament to their success.
The executive officer of the base, Cmdr. Ed Callahan, said he hoped the young sailors soaked in the knowledge.
"Be true to yourself; work hard' be faithful' work for what you believe in and realize what you do is important," Callahan said. "What these young sailors are doing and the commitment they make today, tomorrow and in the future is truly important to our national security."
Hagel took a few questions from sailors, including a tough one about what keeps him up at night. He responded by saying there are new threats everywhere, everyday to deal with.
"You can't allow yourself to get consumed with it; then you can't think," Hagel said. "You can't get above it and frame up the larger context of how all this has to fit into a larger scheme of where this country is going."
Ultimately the day was about military pride, with Hagel thanking the sailors in the crowd multiple times, saying they are helping to define the future of our world.
"We thank you for what you're doing, what you have been doing here," Hagel said. "I know occasionally you might wonder if anyone pays attention and if anyone cares. We are paying attention. We know what you do. We appreciate what you do."
Hagel also talked about sequestration -- mandatory budget cuts imposed last year when Congress couldn't meet budget goals -- saying it has been devastating and the Pentagon is working with Congress to make changes and that they have about a year to try and persuade lawmakers to turn things around.
Hagel said if Congress isn't willing to make changes, the armed forces will unfortunately face bigger and deeper cuts in the future.