News: Marine Forces Europe, Africa commanding generals talk ‘family readiness’ at town hall
Story by Gunnery Sgt. William Price
STUTTGART, Germany -- The commanding generals of Marine Forces Europe and Africa conducted a Family Readiness town hall meeting with military spouses at United States Army Garrison Stuttgart’s Panzer Kaserne Chapel, Jan. 11.
Lt. Gen.'s Dennis J. Hejlik and John M. Paxton spoke with more than 50 Marine spouses from the general Stuttgart area to discuss family matters and concerns, general Marine Corps issues and to simply answer any questions the spouses may have had. Both commanders’ were accompanied by their wives, Sandy and Debbie, respectively.
Brig. Gen. Charles Chiarotti, the MFE/MFA, deputy commanding general, opened the forum by thanking all in attendance, to include more than 20 members of USAG Stuttgart’s base and community leadership. Most notably were the Deputy Garrison Commander, Kathleen Cole, and Sgt. Maj. Anthony Bryant, USAG Stuttgart command sergeant major. He then introduced both Marine Forces’ leaders.
Hejlik spoke first to overall Marine Corps issues such as the downsizing of our active and reserve components and the importance of education.
“By educating our Marines, both officers and enlisted, we are going to have a better Marine Corps,” said Hejlik, who with 40 years of service, from a buck private to a 3-star general, spoke candidly and from the heart. “The better educated we are, the better we take care of our family.”
Lt. Gen. Paxton, who also heads the Family Readiness Committee for the Marine Corps talked to the history of the program, the tools available and the impact of financial restraints.
“The days of ‘If the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one!’ are over,” said the 37-year veteran and II Marine Expeditionary Force, commanding general. “While the Marine Corps Community Service program faces cutbacks, family readiness and the FRO programs are here to stay.”
He also discussed the morphing of mass communication into the new ‘E-Marine’ website as the way forward. E-Marine, located at www.emarine.org, was created in early 2011, as a secure website for Marines and spouses to receive up-to-date information on community and command events, and local resources. The MFE/MFA E-Marine page is scheduled to debut later this month.
The town hall meeting was then opened for questions and answers with the MFE, MFA, and USAG leaders. For more than an hour, topics discussed ranged from the future of tuition and transition assistance, and pensions, to health care, the welfare of the junior Marines, and the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.
“With more than 300 Marine families spread throughout the greater Stuttgart area, as well as Europe and Africa, opportunities to meet like this can be hard to come by,” said Kathy Nelson, the MFE/MFA Family Readiness Officer and event organizer. “Having this many spouses in one place with the commanders, was a huge step forward for our Marine Corps family.”
Nelson is also responsible for U.S. European Command, U.S. African Command, Special Operations Commands Africa and Europe.
“It was wonderful to see all the spouses together. It was a great turn out from all the Marine commands,” said Joan Chiarotti, wife of Brig. Gen. Chiarotti. “A lot of great information was shared and best of all many new friendships were made.”
Cole, also a daughter of a former Marine colonel, stressed the importance of community and teamwork. “Don’t be shy about using all our resources, and ‘Talking Purple’,” referring to all of the different branches of services at USAG Stuttgart working side by side.
Hejlik, closed the forum in concurrence with Cole, as he put one hand over the ‘Marine’ on his chest’s nametape. “’What does this leave you with?’” he asked the crowded chapel. “It leaves you with U.S. or ‘US!’ Same thing for the Army, Air Force, and Navy’s uniforms. After all is said and done, like a family, it is all about, ‘One team, one fight’!”
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