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AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — The war in Iraq has raised a lot of questions, including some from the troops helping to fight it.

Aviano airmen seemed heartened after some of their questions were answered during a surprise meeting with Gen. John P. Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff.

“It made me feel more upbeat about doing what I’m doing,” said Senior Airman Kalani Calles of Hilo, Hawaii, at the 31st Maintenance Squadron. “It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself.”

Jumper visited Aviano on his way back to Washington from Turkey, where he reportedly held meetings earlier this week with Turkish military officials.

During a television taping before the meeting, Jumper said the American public “counts on us to deal with this specter of terrorism.”

“They don’t know how to think about [terrorism] or how to deal with it and we do,” Jumper said. “We know that Osama bin Laden is sitting in a hole somewhere like Saddam Hussein was, and it’s our jobs to go find that guy and take him out, and [take out] people like him who want to ruin our way of life.”

The general did not take questions from Stars and Stripes, which was denied entry to the airmen-only town hall meeting that followed. American Forces Network also was not allowed into the meeting, held in Aviano’s Hangar 1.

A rousing cheer could be heard from outside the hangar at the end of the meeting. Afterward, other airmen from the 31st Maintenance Squadron said they were pleased that Jumper brought up more than usual Air Force business.

“Some people say, ‘Why not just leave [the Mideast] alone?’” said Staff Sgt. Christopher McKeen of Tampa, Fla. “But he brought up September 11 and the war on terrorism. He brought up that people in the States shake your hand when they see you.

“You don’t get much of that over here because we’re all [military-]related. It’s good to know that people back home are supporting what we do.”

“The world is an unpredictable place,” said Staff Sgt. James Parks of Colorado Springs, Colo. “We have to be able to jump on them at any time.

“We kind of got the world surrounded instead of just guarding our little castle.”


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