MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump made his first visit to the headquarters Monday for U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command.
A room full of troops in fatigues from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines sat down to lunch with the president, as well as senior members of his White House staff.
Trump made small talk with some of the soldiers, discussing everything from football to military careers.
“Gonna make it a career?” Trump asked one person.
“C’mon, you have to stay,” he urged another.
Trump also hailed Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady, saying he “cemented his place” in football history after his fifth Super Bowl win Sunday.
Trump, who is also commander in chief of the U.S. military, stopped at the base on the way back to Washington after his first weekend away from the White House. Trump spent the weekend at his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, with first lady Melania Trump, who had not appeared in public since shortly after her husband took office.
At MacDill, the president is to be briefed by CENTCOM and SOCOM leaders, join troops for lunch and deliver a speech. Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, were expected to attend the meetings.
Trump also planned to meet with Florida Gov. Rick Scott before the flight to Washington.
CENTCOM oversaw a recent raid by U.S. special operations forces on an al-Qaida compound in Yemen, the first military operation authorized by Trump. A Navy SEAL, Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, of Peoria, Illinois, was killed, making him the first known U.S. combat casualty under Trump.
Three other U.S. service members were wounded in the operation. More than half a dozen suspected militants and more than a dozen civilians were also killed, including the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical cleric and U.S. citizen who was targeted and killed in 2011 by a U.S. drone strike.
Trump traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware last week to be present when Owens’ remains were returned to his family.
During his weekly address last Friday, Trump paid tribute to Owens as a “brave and selfless patriot.”
“We will never forget him. We will never ever forget those who serve. Believe me,” Trump said. Trump also talked in the address about his responsibility to keep the American people safe, and mentioned the executive order he signed late last month suspending the U.S. refugee program as well as travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven mostly Muslim countries.
The executive order has been met with challenges in federal court and protests around the country.
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