News: Commandant visits Okinawa Marines
Story by Cpl. Alyssa N. Gunton
OKINAWA, Japan - Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos, Amos’ spouse Bonnie Amos and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Micheal P. Barrett visited Camps Hansen and Schwab July 18 to speak with the Marines of III Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Installations Pacific.
The three distinguished visitors discussed several topics, including the status of Operation Enduring Freedom, sexual assault prevention and response, family readiness and the strategic importance of the Asia-Pacific region.
With Marine operations in Afghanistan scheduled to conclude in December 2014, the time and effort exerted is expected to result in success, according to Amos.
“The Afghan armed forces are doing a terrific job,” said Amos. “We’re about one terrain feature back from them and are there if they need us. We’ve got their back.
“By November of this year, we’ll only have about 4,500 Marines left in Afghanistan. By the time (those Marines withdraw), we will be done. Our mission in Afghanistan will be complete; and I mean it’s not a matter of ‘pulling the plug,’ we’ll actually be done.”
The equipment coming out of Afghanistan will be reset and redistributed with a focus of supporting missions in the Pacific, according to Amos.
“We’re slowly putting the forces back on (Okinawa), and I’m committed to that,” said Amos. “We have committed the Marine Corps to do just exactly what the president has asked us to do.
“We went from one infantry battalion on Okinawa to three, and by October of this year, we’ll have a fourth one.”
There are many reasons why the president wants to focus efforts on the Pacific, according to Amos.
“The Pacific is more than 63 million square miles of surface; it’s 33 times bigger than the contiguous parts of the U.S., and 61 percent of the world’s population lives here,” said Amos. “We’ve got five of the seven U.S. major treaties that we’ve signed with other nations in the Asia-Pacific area … so this is an important area for us strategically as the U.S.”
Barrett spoke about the impact service members’ actions have while stationed overseas, specifically Okinawa.
“All of their actions have strategic implications,” said Barrett. “(The Marines here) need to be stand-up men and women. When it comes time to do something, they must immediately take this into consideration; ‘is what I’m about to do moral, ethical, professional, safe and just?’”
Barrett also passionately shared his thoughts on sexual assault prevention and response.
“Sexual assault is the most disgusting, demeaning, shameful, criminal act (to violate another person),” said Barrett. “The message has been clearly received over the last week as the commandant and I have been traveling here and through our leadership; the Marines are fed up with sexual assault, they are sick and tired of it. (If predators single out and prey on one of our wonderful people,) stand by because Marines are rising up. They are going to get you, and they’re going to put a boot in your neck.”
Amos addressed the issue of sexual assault within the ranks with equal vigor.
“Here’s the bottom line: we are the United States Marine Corps,” said Amos. “We are a team, and team members take care of one another, and we don’t allow bad things to happen to one another. We protect one another; we fight alongside one another; we give our lives for one another.”
Bonnie Amos also had a message for the service members and their families stationed on Okinawa.
“Every opportunity is out there (for families when Marines are in training or awaiting to deploy),” she said. “If someone is tight on money, the resources are out there (to help). Everything that a Marine or family member could possibly want is within reach. They can just raise a hand if they are in need.”
As the senior leaders gave light to the current and future operations of the Marine Corps, they also wanted to take the time to thank the Marines for everything that they do, according to Amos.
“Go back to Sept. 11, (2001) when the nation called for an elite set of Americans; there has been no shortage of that,” said Barrett. “When (the commandant and I) travel around, we get to see the discipline, proficiency, esprit de corps, morale and motivation; and coming to the Pacific, we are seeing exactly all that. The message that we delivered while we were on this trip is to remind (the Marines) just how humbling and what a privilege it is that we get to serve them.”