CAMP HANSON, AFGHANISTAN
CAMP HANSON, Helmand province, Afghanistan – The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Michael Barrett, visited the Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment here, Sept. 22.
During the visit, part of a battlefield circulation of forward operating bases in southern Helmand, Amos took time to answer questions from those in attendance, award three medals of valor and record a small portion of his Marine Corps birthday message.
“I want to remind you of why you are here,” Amos said. “Eleven days ago we sat on a Sunday morning at 9:27[a.m.] at the Pentagon, which is precisely the time when that American Airlines flight hit that building. My office was destroyed that day. I never got back in it. I came out of that with a different perspective on this war than a lot of folks.”
While discussing his memories of 9/11 with the assembled Marines and sailors, Amos encouraged them to look for the good in the decade since the attacks.
“I remember driving down the interstates south of Washington D.C, and the overpasses were just full of American flags,” Amos said. “Turn the news on at night and you didn’t have the Republicans fighting the Democrats or the Democrats fighting the Republicans. Everyone came together for the first time that I can remember as an American.”
But through it all Amos urged the Marines not to forget why they are still in Afghanistan.
“Those attacks were planned just East of us over by Kandahar,” he said. “We should never forget that those attacks were born and planned right here in Afghanistan. “
The commandant noted another milestone that was marked recently with the awarding of the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Dakota Meyer.
“Last week, for the first time in my four decades of being a Marine, I was there when the President pinned the Medal of Honor on a living United States Marine, Sgt. Dakota Meyer,” Amos said. “He was fearless in that he knew his brothers… were going to die, he suspected that a lot of them had already died, and he knew what he had to do. He was a corporal, 21 years-old.”
Amos continued, “Probably the greatest line that’s a testimony to us, a testimony to you… was when he was asked by NBC news ‘Were you worried when you went back in, did you think you were going to die?’ and his exact comment was ‘I didn’t think I was going to die, I knew I was going to die.’”
“That’s our legacy,” Amos concluded. “That’s who we are.”
He then opened the floor to questions. Three questions asked by the crowd at Camp Hanson and responses from Amos are presented below:
How much longer will we be in Afghanistan?
"We don’t know yet. President Karzai has said he wants complete control of this country back to its people by 2014. So in my mind, I am working on the 2014 clock. Somewhere on the backside, 2014 is probably the bookend."
What is the estimated timeframe for employment of the Female Engagement Team and if permanent would it become an MOS (Military Occupational Specialty)?
"I can’t think of a good reason why we wouldn’t want to [utilize FET] while we still have Marines here. It’s something that’s found its place in the Marine Corps. I believe in it, sergeant major believes in it, senior leadership believes in it. It may become a permanent part of the structure, every one of you has a different MOS, we just kind of plug and play."
I recently read your letter to the Secretary of Defense on the genesis of the Marine Corps and where we are going in the future. What was the reasoning behind that letter?
"I don’t think there’s any secret that there’s huge budget challenges in our nation. When our nation is in a budget crisis it finds its way into the Department of Defense. People start looking at poaching Marine Corps missions and drawing the Marine Corps down. I needed to make sure senior leadership understands the value of the United States Marine Corps and what we do, what we are willing to do, what we are capable of, what we do for our nation. I was pretty disappointed when I found out that entire letter, a personal letter from a service chief to the Secretary of Defense, got into the press. Someone felt compelled to take my personal correspondence and put it out so I wasn’t happy about that. On the other hand, it’s gotten a lot of traction."
After taking time to answer questions from the crowd, the commandant then awarded three Marines with medals of valor.
Sgt. Beau Reimink was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat distinguishing device for heroic achievement while serving as team leader, sniper platoon, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, July 11.
On the day in question, Reimink’s team came under fire from insurgents with machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. He ordered his team to displace twice while relaying reports to an adjacent unit to coordinate support. Upon noticing one of his Marines was wounded, Reimink disregarded the intense machine gun fire, engaged insurgents with three grenade launcher rounds and masked his movement using smoke to reach the casualty. After moving to safety with the wounded Marine, Reimink treated him while coordinating his evacuation.
Lance Cpl. Brandon Klepsig was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with combat distinguishing device for superior performance of his duties while serving as a machine gunner with 3/6, June 17.
Klepsig was conducting a route clearance sweep on his first patrol in theater when his section came under fire. In the initial burst, a Marine was struck in the face by a round, knocking to the ground. Klepsig moved through heavy fire across open terrain and calmed the Marine, applying the necessary first aid to his head wound. Though the bleeding was difficult to control, Kelpsig managed to stabilize the wounded Marine just long enough to allow for an evacuation. His actions were crucial to saving this Marine’s life.
Lance Cpl. Jacob Vinyard was presented the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with combat distinguishing device for superior performance of his duties as a squad automatic weapon gunner, sniper platoon, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, July 11.
Vinyard was participating in a reconnaissance and surveillance mission when he and his fellow Marines were ambushed. Without hesitation he returned fire with his SAW, laying down enough suppressive fire for his team to find cover. Upon discovering another Marine had been shot, Vinyard disregarded the steady incoming fire and immediately ran to the wounded Marine. After successfully applying a tourniquet and moving the wounded casualty to cover, Vinyard contacted company headquarters and coordinated an evacuation within 20 minutes.
Before departing Camp Hanson, Amos and Barrett filmed a segment of the Marine Corps birthday message. This year Amos plans to film short pieces of his message at each Marine forward operating base in Afghanistan. The final product will be viewed at Marine Corps Birthday Balls around the U. S. and wherever Marines are operating around the globe.
Editor’s note: Third battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.
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This work, Commandant of the Marine Corps visits 3/6 Marines and sailors in Marjah, by GySgt Andrew Miller, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.