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U.S. Marines and soldiers listen during U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s opening remarks.
U.S. Marines and soldiers listen during U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s opening remarks. (Teri Weaver / S&S)
U.S. Marines and soldiers listen during U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s opening remarks.
U.S. Marines and soldiers listen during U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s opening remarks. (Teri Weaver / S&S)
Spc. Sean Stewart, of Tujunga, Calif., poses for a picture with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. After taking questions Friday afternoon, Rumsfeld walked the room, shaking hands and posing for pictures with servicemembers.
Spc. Sean Stewart, of Tujunga, Calif., poses for a picture with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. After taking questions Friday afternoon, Rumsfeld walked the room, shaking hands and posing for pictures with servicemembers. (Teri Weaver / S&S)

SEOUL — An exuberant crowd of almost 2,000 gave Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a rousing welcome Friday when he stepped to the podium for a question-and-answer session at Yongsan Garrison.

Troops interviewed after Rumsfeld’s appearance said they found him to have a likable mix of broad knowledge and senior-level responsibility tempered by a down-to-earth presence and a sense of humor.

Servicemembers said they took fresh heart from his repeated message to them that he and the American people value and support them and their military service.

Rumsfeld spoke to an audience of 1,950 — about 1,400 of them servicemembers, the rest mostly family members, a USFK spokesman said.

“He was a people person,” said Army Spc. Bernard Foote of the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, based at Kwangju Air Base. “He was calm, cool and collected. He cares about everybody. I got a good … impression.”

“Seemed to be down to earth,” said Spc. Thomas Laroque of the Army’s 527th Military Intelligence Battalion at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek. “Very articulate. Seems to know what he’s talking about.”

“It was great to see a senior leader here,” said Sgt. Salim Poindexter of the Army’s 1st Signal Brigade, stationed at Yongsan Garrison. “It helps the morale of my soldiers … He said ‘The American people support us.’ That was good to hear … . Something my soldiers need to hear.”

“I think as a person … he’s looking out for us,” said Pvt. Somer Englund of the 1st Signal Brigade. “I learned a lot about the responsibility of his position, exactly how important he is,” said Pfc. Ryan Hart of the Army’s 527th Military Intelligence Battalion.

Rumsfeld’s visit took an especially personal turn for Army Maj. Laura Bozeman, chief of 8th U.S. Army’s personnel actions branch in Seoul.

“I just saw that he was shaking people’s hands and I waited in line and took the opportunity to say hello,” she said. Her mother attended New Trier High School in Chicago, she said.

“I said ‘Here’s some trivia for ya, sir. You may not remember her but my mom went to high school with you.’

“And he said, ‘Oh really? What’s her name?’ And I said, ‘Dottie Beinlich.’ And he said, ‘Oh, sure. I remember her. Is she still alive? Is she doing okay?’

“And I said, ‘Yes sir, she’s doing real well, as are you.”

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