FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. –
Ambassador Charles Ray, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel Affairs and former United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia, recently visited Fairchild to speak at the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape graduation that took place June 12.
Ambassador Ray also attended a retirement ceremony and spent time with SERE and Joint Personnel Recovery Agency personnel during his time here.
"I have policy oversight and development for JPRA, of which SERE is a part," Ambassador Ray explained. "I like to go around to each area that has to do with it to get an idea of what the guys in the field are going through, and SERE is a key component to JPRA. Search and rescue efforts protect people lives, so I obviously think it's important. If you don't get out there and see what they go through, the policy won't make sense. I have to get out there and understand the reality and limitations of the environment these SERE guys go through. If I'm responsible for making the policy, I need a good idea of how it is applied."
As the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel Affairs, Ambassador Ray's responsibilities also include reporting to the Secretary of Defense on matters dealing with POW/MIA and search and rescue.
"Between victory and defeat, SERE ensures the sacrifices are not made in vain on the part of the missing and prisoners," he said. "They are a direct link in ensuring an effective fighting force. People tend to forget that sacrifices are not done for medals or recognition. They create a sense of solidarity and camaraderie among those they serve with. It is that mutual support that gives you the winning edge. Search and rescue efforts do that - If our missing and imprisoned know someone is looking for them, they have the strength to go on, and those who may have to take a risk and end up in either situation, they might go a little farther knowing SERE will be right after them looking for them."
The ambassador was at Fairchild for only two days, but had a lot to say about Fairchild, even as it relates to SERE.
"I want to remind Team Fairchild never to forget the importance of what you do," he said. "You are indirect morale building components and you help us stay strong. A misconception in the military is that weapons make us strong. That's not true; it is the morale and spirit of those running the weapons and programs that is where our strength lies."