CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos accompanied by the Corps’ top enlisted Marine, Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent, visited Marines and sailors at Camp Pendleton, Dec. 7.
The visit was part of a tour of West Coast installations, where Amos and Kent addressed troops and met with commanders at multiple locations. This is Amos’ first coastal tour since becoming commandant.
Current operations in Helmand province were the main topic during the commandant’s brief to Marines and sailors who recently returned from Afghanistan. Amos reminded the Marines that two years ago, areas like Now Zad and Nawa were dangerous. Several areas in the south, including Marjah, were overrun by the insurgency.
“We fought all that for months, and then we spent the next four to five months cleaning Marjah up,” Amos said. “That’s what’s going to happen in Sangin.”
Marjah was the site of a joint offensive in the winter of 2009 to clear the area from Taliban control. Almost one year later, Marines are now taking the fight to the enemy in Sangin District, in northeast Helmand province.
“There is a tough fight ahead of us in Sangin,” Amos said. “We’ll fix it. We’ll be there. We’ll get it done. We know that, and we will prevail.”
More than 20,000 Marines are deployed to Afghanistan. The area of operations expanded into two provinces in the south, Nimruz and Helmand. President Barack Obama recently repeated his pledge to begin withdrawing troops in July 2011. Amos said he fully supports that decision, however it is unclear whether Marines will be part of the drawdown.
Amos and Kent opened the floor to accept questions from a variety of topics including the likelihood of repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, to specific questions regarding new weaponry, the possibility of downsizing the Corps and raising its standards.
“There was a rumor out there that we were going to draw down to 140,000 Marines,” Kent said. “The commandant will not let that happen. The commandant is asking us to look at doing things that are fair for everybody, and we're going to do that.”
Amos said there is a review group being held at Quantico, Va., to analyze what the Marine Corps’ structure should look like when operations in Afghanistan end.
“The operative word is ‘when’ we come out of Afghanistan,” Amos said. “We’re going to stay at 202,000 Marines while we’re in engaged in Afghanistan. I don’t think we’re going to raise our standards. Nor are we going to lower our standards in the future regarding recruiting.”
Marines expressed their concerns about current conflicts in Korea and Iran. Amos said he is monitoring the situation in Korea carefully, but isn’t certain about Iran.
“Here is the one thing I promise you,” Amos said. “If something happens in Korea, you can take it to the bank. I’m going to step up in front of the chairman and the secretary of defense, the president, and I’m going to say ‘send in the Marines.’”
Kent and Amos reminded the Marines to always be trained and ready to take the fight to the enemy at a moment’s notice. The two leaders thanked their Marines for serving as U.S. Marines and reminded them of the Corps’ uniqueness.
“I never pass up the opportunity to remind congress and the press that we recruit differently. We recruit under a warrior ethos,” Amos said. “We don’t think the economy has anything to do with how good our retention and recruiting is. We don’t want the majority of the American population to join us because they can’t hack it. We just need a few.”
“The commandant and I are extremely proud of what you do for our Corps each and every day,” Kent said. “The American people are very proud of the Corps. Just think, if there wasn’t a Corps, there wouldn’t be a nation.”