Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump promised as commander in chief to supply the National Guard with "the best, most modern equipment" and rebuild the "depleted" American military in a speech before guardsmen and their families in Baltimore Monday.
"You deserve a government that recognizes your contributions and provides you the resources you need to get the job done," Trump told audience members at the National Guard Association of the United States convention. "In a Trump administration, the National Guard will always have a direct line to the Oval Office, and I mean direct,"
The speech was Trump's first since Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton blasted some Trump backers "deplorables" with racist and sexist intentions, and largely focused on non-defense issues despite the venue.
Trump called the comments an attempt to demonize working-class Americans and blasted Clinton for not understanding their struggles and fears.
"People who warn about radical Islamic terrorism are not Islamaphobes," he said. "They are decent citizens who want to uphold our values and keep our country safe"
Trump repeated his pledge to increase military spending and make the country more secure, comments that his critics have repeatedly attacked as unspecific and misleading.
"We will abandon the policy of reckless regime change favored by my opponent, and we will instead work with our allies to advance the core national security interests of the United States," he said. "America first, remember that."
Trump also reiterated his past promises to eliminate defense spending caps on the federal budget, calling the bipartisan-passed plan "a total disaster."
Clinton has promised to undo all of the spending caps, both on the defense and non-defense side. President Obama and lawmakers have worked unsuccessfully for the last five years on the issue, passing a few short-term funding fixes but no long-term solution to the issue.
The Republican business mogul also repeated his pledge to defeat the Islamic State group in the Middle East but promised that "instead of endless wars, we want a real plan for victory."
NGAUS officials said they invited both Trump and Clinton to speak at the annual convention, but did not give a reason why Clinton declined. Trump received a warm welcome from the crowd, and prompted even more cheers with each promise of keeping the fighting force well-resourced.
Both Clinton and Trump spoke at the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars conventions earlier this summer, repeating many of the same themes as his speech Monday. Last week, the two took questions from veterans in a televised forum organized in part by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.