Commandant visits Marines in Camp Taqaddum

29 Dec 2006 | Lance Cpl. Geoffrey P. Ingersoll 1st Marine Logistics Group

The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James T. Conway, and the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. John L. Estrada, paid a visit here to speak to a few hundred Marines Tuesday, Dec. 26.

Camp Taqaddum was one stop of many for two of the military's top leaders, who plan to visit Marines all around the Al Anbar Province. During their appearance in TQ, Conway and Estrada fielded questions from junior Marines, and spoke about current topics of concern.

Before anything though, Conway commended the Marines for the job they are doing, and the sacrifices they make.

"You guys and gals are doing a magnificent job out here. I thank you for your service, and the nation thanks you," said Conway.

Conway added that deployed Marines should remember that they are in Iraq so their families and friends can safely enjoy Christmas.

"You're doing a job that has to be done, so they can be back there ... living a relatively peaceful existence," said Conway. Conway also expressed confidence in the progression of the war.

Since 2004, the Al Anbar province has become a better place, and the Marine Corps has made big steps toward victory, said Conway.

Conway went on to talk about new technology the Marine Corps plans to deploy to the battlefield. From new types of vehicles to enhanced safety systems, the Corps is always working to protect its war fighters, said Conway. Conway also mentioned that any changes made in troop levels require good reason.

In order to increase the number of troops, "we need a definable military objective," said Conway.

Conway ended his speech by talking about the new Marine Corps physical training uniforms, and then answered any questions the Marines had to offer.

"Marines don't always get to see the 'higher-ups,' to ask them direct questions," said Sgt. Christian R. Lebron, a 24-year-old electrician with Communications Company, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward).

It's good because the junior Marines don't have to go through the chain-of-command to ask about whatever is going on in their minds, said Lebron, from Queens, N.Y.

Marines asked questions about possible deployment extensions and new tattoo regulations. Conway handed the microphone to Estrada a few times during the question and answer session, most notably to answer a question about tattoo regulations.

"We are going to revisit the tattoo issue," said Estrada, who added that the regulation has received differing interpretations, and that he plans to make sure it is enforced uniformly across the military.

Their visit says "We hear your concerns and we're going to do something about them," said Lance Cpl. George C. Gardner, a 34-year-old field wireman with Communications Company.

Both Gardner and Lebron agreed that the appearance of the two Marine Corps leaders struck a cord with the deployed service members, it raised morale and dedication.

"It does lift the morale ... (Conway) is not just talking. He's in the region, coming to us, coming to find out what we're doing here. He cares about us," said Gardner, from Greenwich, Conn.

Conway said that he was doing everything he could to protect the interest of his Marines. And he assured them that the country and the president were behind them.

The president and congress support the troops, and your countrymen are behind you, said Conway.
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