Obama thanks troops at Alaska's Elmendorf Air Force Base

Making his first stop in Alaska, President Obama offered thanks and tribute to hundreds of airmen and soldiers today at Elmendorf Air Force Base.

"I want you guys to understand I will never hesitate to use force to protect the American people or our vital interests," Obama said. "But I also make you this promise -- I will not risk your lives unless it is necessary to America's vital interests.

"And if it is necessary the United States of America will have your back."

Obama promised the troops they'd be provided with a clear mission, equipment and public support at home. The crowd of mostly service men and women filled a hangar at the air base, holding their cameras and cell phones in the air as the president walked on stage. Politicians, including Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan and U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, dotted the crowd.

Before speaking to troops for roughly 15 minutes, the president said he met with the family of Marine Cpl. Gregory M.W. Fleury, a Service High graduate who died Oct. 26 while serving in Afghanistan.

"He loved the Corps and he loved Alaska, so much so that he carried the state flag with him everywhere; it was with him last month when he was killed in those helicopter crashes in Afghanistan," Obama said.

With today's refueling stopover in Alaska, Obama said he's now visited all 50 states. After the short layover, he left Anchorage for his first trip to Asia as president. Obama was expected to travel first to Tokyo, where he would speak on his Pacific Rim policy and meet with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

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