Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel Visits Eglin

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EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE-- Hundreds of military women and men stood under a hangar in Eglin Air Force Base waiting to hear from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Thursday morning.

When Hagel spoke to the crowd, he focused his speech on people, capabilities and what he calls platform.

"We are assuring everyone that safety is a first priority," said Chuck Hagel, United States Secretary of Defense.

The secretary was talking about the F-35 fighter jets.

U.S. military officials grounded the entire F-35 fleet last week, after one of the aircraft caught fire last month.

"I know there are issues, I don't know a platform we've ever had, we've ever designed, we've ever tried, and then put into service that didn't go through issues," said Hagel.

Hagel says he received an inspection report concerning the F-35, but the overall investigation continues.

"I would like to say we are sitting around doing nothing, but that is far from the case. There are still lots of things to be done, like course ware review for the upcoming software that is going to be put in our F-35s," said Lt. Col. Eric Smith, 58th Fighter Squadron.

"We're not going to put the F35's in the air send it anywhere until we are absolutely convinced and know that is safe to fly," said Hagel.

Hagel says Eglin has a very bright future.

"It is an essential part of our training, of our modernization, of our readiness," said Hagel.

Before he left, Hagel handed out souvenir coins to dozens of men after the ceremony, which is a customary tradition of top military leaders.

The United States and eight other countries plan to use the F-35.

Secretary Hagel is also stopping in Ft. Rucker, Alabama.