MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
As his tenure as the 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps draws to a close, Gen. James T. Conway took an opportunity to swing through Marine Corps installations on the East Coast to visit his Marines and sailors, August 4-6, 2010.
Accompanied by the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent, and their wives, Conway’s tour included visits to each of the bases and air stations in North and South Carolina. At each location, Conway and Kent conducted town hall-style meetings with Marines and sailors while their wives met with families and unit family readiness officers.
A focal point at each of the meetings, conducted at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, and Marine Corps Air Stations Beaufort, New River and Cherry Point, was the Corps’ current role in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Our time in Iraq is closed out,” Conway told Marines and sailors gathered at MCAS New River, including many who recently returned from the Marine Corps’ last major deployment to Iraq. “We did what we were sent there to do. As we’ve been able to draw down in Iraq, we’ve been able to build up in Afghanistan.”
Among those in the audiences were thousands of Marines and sailors scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province next spring, and many others who recently returned from heavy fighting in south Afghanistan.
“You ought to be really proud with what’s happening in Afghanistan,” Conway commented, “Marines are doing every day what they are trained to do. We’ve lived up to what we say we are and what we do for this great nation.”
Conway and Kent opened the floor at each meeting and fielded questions ranging from broad topics such as promotions, the size of the Marine Corps, and the possibility of repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding homosexuals serving openly in the military, to more specific questions regarding fitness testing and weapons.
Sergeant Jesse M. Nance, a satellite communication technician with the 8th Communications Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, asked about the Marine Corps’ search for a replacement for the M249 squad automatic weapon, which the Commandant said was still ongoing.
“They were very detailed and very positive about where the Marine Corps is heading,” said Nance, commenting on his opportunity to ask the Corps’ senior leadership a question. “I think it was a very good thing for a lot of the Marines that were there to hear from somebody that high up in the chain of command and in the political arena.”
A common theme for Conway, regardless if he was talking to drill instructors at Parris Island, infantrymen at Camp Lejeune, disbursers at Cherry Point or aircraft mechanics at Beaufort, was recognizing the commitment of today’s young Marines and their Navy brethren.
“Thank you for who you are and what you represent,” Conway said. Today we have a nation of more than 300 million Americans, and yet, less than one percent wear the uniform of any service, and even less than that wear ours.
“I encourage you today, tomorrow, for the rest of your lives – if you walk into a theater or a restaurant, you do so with your head held high because you are the nation’s warrior class.”
Conway, who assumed his role as commandant in November 2006, will surrender his post later this year.