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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Biden: We’ll follow terrorists to ‘gates of hell’

By DAVID SHARP

The Associated Press

KITTERY, Maine – Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday the United States would pursue the terrorists who recently beheaded two American journalists “to the gates of hell.”

In a strong and unyielding speech before the work force at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the vice president called the terrorists “these barbarians … who think they’re going to lessen our resolve, to frighten us and intimidate us. Well, they don’t know us very well.” ...

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KITTERY, Maine – Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday the United States would pursue the terrorists who recently beheaded two American journalists “to the gates of hell.”

In a strong and unyielding speech before the work force at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the vice president called the terrorists “these barbarians … who think they’re going to lessen our resolve, to frighten us and intimidate us. Well, they don’t know us very well.”

Biden’s remarks came after recently released video showed the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff, two weeks after a video depicting the beheading of journalist James Foley, whose family is from Rochester.

The vice president was speaking at the shipyard after touring the apprentice shop and talking with union and Navy leaders about its innovative work-force engagement policy. He was joined by Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Reps. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., and Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud, D-Maine.

“We don’t retreat. We don’t forget. The American people are so much stronger, so much more resolved than any enemy can fully understand. The American people don’t step back,” Biden said. He then addressed his comments directly to the entire work force gathered in Building 92 at the shipyard. “You are representative of all that is good about this country,” he said. “You are simply the best in the world.”

Biden referenced the 2005 round of Base Realignment and Closures, when the shipyard was listed to be shuttered. “When they tried to shut you down, they didn’t understand why you’re the reason why America is the most dominant force in the world,” he said.

He then centered on a theme that emerged during his earlier tour of the shop: the importance of the middle class.

“American jobs are coming back home,” he said. “The U.S. is better positioned than any nation in the world to be the leading economy of the 21st century.”

But he said in order to maintain this “cutting edge, we need to keep a highly skilled work force.” He said jobs are going unfilled throughout the private sector in technology, manufacturing and energy, to name just a few.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama assigned Biden to identify work-force development and training programs that would help the private sector. Biden said he spoke with the chief executive officers of Fortune 500 companies, unions, businesses and government officials.

“And ironically, the answer to the question lay right here in the shipyard,” Biden said.

Through the apprenticeship program, he said, people can learn a trade and go on to make a good living with benefits and job security. He said some 85 percent of apprentices in private and public sector jobs go on to full-time employment and remain employed.

The shipyard’s roughly 5,000 employees are “the backbone of this local economy,” Biden said. But more than that, he added, they are symbolic of “the good middle-class jobs we need to grow this country.”

“The middle class is the fabric that stitches together the country like no other,” he said.

Biden lauded the partnership between Navy officials, shipyard management and shipyard workers, saying “private enterprise can learn a lot from you.”

Shaheen told workers this partnership, called the “Declaration of Excellence,” is of vital importance. “You have a model of teamwork that is bar none in the country,” she said, adding she was impressed by “how you work together – with management, with workers of all levels – to make a difference on behalf of our national security.”

Shea-Porter, Pingree and Michaud also spoke of the importance of the work done at the shipyard.

“We are so protective of these jobs,” Pingree said. “These are the kinds of jobs we don’t see enough of in America anymore – highly skilled, well-paid union jobs. This is world-class work you do. Everyone knows it. And you are a model for other shipyards.”

Base Realignment and Closure, orBRAC, was also front and center among the congressional delegation. As chairwoman of the Readiness Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Shaheen said she and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., with whom she serves, “are working hard every day to ensure the resources are there for all of you, and that any proposal for a BRAC round never makes it past the committee.”

Earlier, the vice president toured the Shipyard Learning Center Workshop at Building 92, where he spoke with apprentices, apprentice trainees and engineers about their work, and toured a mock-up of a submarine.

“This apprenticeship program is what we should be doing in the private sector,” Biden said.

Apprentice trainer Adam Poliquin told him that in addition to training in a trade, apprentices also take classes at York County Community College and Great Bay Community College.

“They get paid while they’re learning,” Biden said. “This should be done across the country.”

He also spoke with engineers who are going into area schools and working with students on robotics and other programs. The engineers said they have reached 5,000 local students to date. Biden said mentorship programs that concentrate on hands-on technology and engineering are extremely important.

“Over the last 15 years, there are hardly any shop programs where kids can work with their hands,” he said. “It’s the first thing they cut, along with music. So they have no idea what could lead them” to pursue these careers because they’re not given the opportunity.

Local schools are lucky, he said, to have the expertise of local shipyard engineers.

Jennifer Ouellette, an apprentice welder at the yard, was on hand to greet the vice president in the training room. She called it a “real honor” to be able to meet him.

“It’s so great,” she said. “Who would have thought this would happen.”

Following his visit to the shipyard, Biden visited Old Ferry Landing and Annabelle’s ice cream shop in Portsmouth.