« 4th CEB continues search for weapons caches | Main | Columbia organization MarineParents.com keeps growing and making a difference »

Generals Visit Marines in Afghanistan

CAMP BARBER, Afghanistan - The Marine Corps' top commanders recently visited with Marines and Sailors of Task Force 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, serving here in support of Operation Enduring Freedom

http://www.military.com/news/article/marine-corps-news/generals-visit-marines-in-afghanistan.html

June 06, 2008
Marine Corps News|by Cpl. Ray Lewis

The "star-studded" week, which featured visits by three Marine Corps generals and one U.S. Army general, was highlighted by a town hall meeting hosted at the flagpole by Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Magnus.

While expressing his admiration and informing the troops of ongoing projects to improve their overall quality of life, the ACMC told the Marines they were executing a very important mission and that the Afghan people are very happy about them deploying here to help.

"You make the Taliban afraid," Gen. Magnus said. "These insurgents will be beaten by their own people in the end. In the meantime, we just need fine American boys like you to help them get over the hump."

The week started with a visit from Lt. Gen. Samuel T. Helland, the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command.

Lt. Gen. Helland, who is also the commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force, initially met and ate lunch with those Marines still operating around the Kandahar Airfield. The next day, he traveled here on a two-day trip to oversee military operations conducted by Task Force 2/7 and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

While Task Force 2/7 and the 24th MEU have Marines operating in the KAF area, both units are also simultaneously carrying out operations here in the Helmand Province. Task Force 2/7 is tasked with the mission of training, mentoring and advising the Afghanistan National Police. The MEU; however, will conduct combat operations aimed at counter insurgency.

During the visit, the MARCENT commander was accompanied by Maj. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, the 1st MarDiv commanding general. Among his entourage were also Sgts. Maj. Dennis W. Reed, MARCENT/I MEF, and Randall Carter, 1st MarDiv, other staff members, and news reporters from the Associated Press and San Diego's North County Times.

After being briefed on both the Marines' operations, the three-star general toured the camp here. He commended 2/7 on its efforts to bring peace and prosperity to the war-torn region.

The setting was quite similar when the ACMC arrived May 14. He, too, surveyed the area and ate "chow" with the Marines. The highlight of his visit was hosting a town hall meeting in front of the flagpole where the troops sat and listened to the four-star general share the story of Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his valor during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

After telling of Dunham's heroics, the ACMC delivered a message from the corporal's mother.

Gen. Magnus said Debra Dunham told him to tell the story of her son and pass on the message of how proud she was of what the Marines are doing for their country.

"Deb said three things: 'Thank you, keep doing what you're doing, and take care of each other,'" said Gen. Magnus on behalf of the "Gold-Star Mom."

A "Gold-Star Mom" is the mother of a service member who served during war and became a "fallen angel," the ACMC explained.

"When a 'Gold-Star Mom' says, 'Thank you,' and Deb in particular, she means thank you for raising your right hand and volunteering to serve your country in a time of war; thank you for leaving your hometown or city; thank you for leaving your family; thank you for going someplace that's too damn hot, too damn cold for work, and too damn dirty, too damn hard against people that are trying to kill you," the ACMC said.

The ACMC said he and Debra know the Marines' continuous efforts contribute greatly in keeping insurgents out of America.

"We don't like our brothers and sisters, your moms and dads, your wives to be afraid as they were on 9/12. We want to turn the clock back so that they... feel secure at home," Gen. Magnus said.

Gen. Magnus said the only way to accomplish homeland security is to "go in the vipers' nest and kill the vipers." He said it takes selflessness, and Cpl. Dunham embodied that trait.

"He did what he had to do to protect his fellow Marines," Gen. Magnus said of the corporal who absorbed a grenade blast with his body to save his troops. "That's what makes you the finest combat team the world has ever seen."

Before departing the area, the ACMC combat meritoriously promoted two Marines to the noncommissioned officer rank of corporal.

Newly-promoted Cpl. Noah J. Sullivan of Company F said he was honored to be pinned on by a four-star general.

"That feels unreal almost. I know it's a rare thing so it was a pretty big honor for that to happen," explained Sullivan, who said he had been chasing his current rank for awhile.

"I mean people take you seriously if you've done a deployment and have been in for awhile, but people take you more seriously when you pick up NCO so I was ready for that," he said.

In addition to his promotion, Sullivan said he thought the general's words meant a lot to the Marines who are operating in one of Afghanistan's most austere and remote regions.

"By the general coming out here, it lets us know that we're not forgotten. It's a morale booster," Sullivan said. "The fact that he would come to Afghanistan is cool. Right now, we're in the middle of the desert waiting until it's our time to do what we're needed to do, and all these generals coming out helps us see the importance of our mission."

The other Marine combat meritoriously promoted was Cpl. Anthony G. Mihalo, who left with Company E to begin operations just hours after his promotion.

As the Marines cheered during the ACMC's visit, it was clear that they were moved by his words. For many of the "hard chargers," this was their first time getting the opportunity to see a general officer up close and personal, let alone four of them.

"The Marines of 2/7 begin to realize the importance of their mission to 'provide security, train, and mentor the ANP' when several Marine generals come to visit them," said Maj. Lee Helton, executive officer, TF 2/7. "It is apparent that the Marine Corps' leadership is observing the performance of Marines on the ground, in order to plan for future OEF Afghanistan deployments."

Army Maj. Gen. Robert W. Cone, commanding general of Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, culminated the week of VIP guests May 17 when he met with Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Richard Hall, TF 2/7, to be briefed on the battalion's operations.