President Barack Obama on Friday addressed the troops at Fort Stewart with First Lady Michelle Obama at his side, during a rare joint appearance by the two at the Army post in Hinesville, Georgia. The post is the largest Army installation on the East Coast and a common destination for politicians and tourists alike. This was the president’s first trip to Fort Stewart, which spans 279,270 acres across five counties in southeast Georgia.
The couple spent the morning meeting soldiers of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division who serve at Fort Stewart before being formally introduced by the division’s commander, Maj. Gen. Robert Abrams and Sgt. Johnnie Marshall. Then the First Lady took the podium, greeting the crowd with a traditional Fort Stewart call of “hooah!” and thanking the active service members and veterans in attendance. She reinforced the Obama administration’s support of the armed forces, making mention of the Joining Forces program she began with Jill Biden (wife of Vice President Joe Biden) last year to aid military families.
The Commander-in-Chief was the next to take the stand, going over the accolades of the 3rd Infantry Division and the initiatives the administration has procured for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. Obama took the time to address a very specific issue, the enrollment and recruitment of service members into questionable programs for higher education and job placement. The president signed an executive order, nicknamed “Know Before You Owe,” that calls for schools and businesses to make the terms of loans and agreements clearly known to potential enrollees. The order also seeks to end the practice of aggressive and improper recruitment tactics, which included the enrollment of brain damaged soldiers.
The president compared the current wave of veteran legislation to the post World War II GI Bill, which led to the era of baby boomers. With a final thank you and blessing, Obama signed the order and left the stage to loud applause from a crowd of over 10,000.