CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
General James F. Amos, the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Sgt. Maj. Micheal Barrett, the 17th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, visited Marines and sailors aboard Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, Sept. 6.
The commandant visited the troops currently serving with Marine Expeditionary Brigade – Afghanistan for his final time before relinquishing his command to Gen. Joseph Dunford later this year.
“This is my last opportunity to see you,” said Gen. Amos. “I’ve been the commandant for four years and a Marine for 44 (years). I wanted to come look you in the eye and say thanks. Thank you for making me proud every day when I wake up and put on this uniform.”
During the visit, Gen. Amos and Sgt. Maj. Barrett spent the day traveling to various command headquarters and speaking to the Marines and sailors currently deployed to Helmand province.
“There are about 35,000 Marines currently forward deployed throughout the globe today,” said Sgt. Maj. Barrett. “That means there are about 153,000 Marines who would change places with you in a heartbeat. But it’s humbling and a privilege to stand in front of you here today.”
In addition to thanking the MEB-A Marines and sailors for their service and sacrifice, the commandant and sergeant major of the Marine Corps also meritoriously promoted four Marines.
Lance Cpl. William Gelroth, a radio repair technician with Intermediate Maintenance Activity Platoon, Combat Logistics Battalion 1, and a native of Louviers, Colorado, was meritoriously promoted to corporal. Lance Cpl. Miguel Mercedes, an ammunition technician specialist with Redeployment and Retrograde in support of Reset and Reconstitution Operations Group and a native of Bronx, New York, was meritoriously promoted to corporal. Lance Cpl. Matthew Padilla, an airframe mechanic with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 70, Marine Aircraft Group - Afghanistan, and a native of Littleton, Colorado, was meritoriously promoted to corporal. Corporal Dominic Sharpsteensurina, an assault section leader with Charley Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, and a native of Minneapolis, was meritoriously promoted to sergeant.
Prior to their meritorious promotions, the sergeant major of the Marine Corps stressed to each Marine that they are “the backbone of the Marine Corps,” and that they are a “vital link” to the commanding officer and all officers in their command.
Following the meritorious promotions at each command, the commandant stressed to the Marines and sailors the importance of being the last Marines serving in Afghanistan.
“You’re going to close it out,” Gen. Amos said. “You’re going to be the Marines who are going to be the last ones to leave Afghanistan. Let me take you back to where the mission began. Within 45 days of the airplanes flying into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, two Marine Expeditionary Units came together, one from the East Coast and one from the West Coast, and they formed what became Task Force 58, led then by Brig. Gen. Jim Mattis. The Marines landed on a dirt runway called (Camp) Rhino and began the first attacks in Afghanistan. And now you are going to be the ones to close it out 13 years later. That’s quite an honor.
“Marines, I am proud of you,” Gen. Amos said. “I want you to keep your spirits up; I want you to take it right to the finish line, and we are going to go out of this country with our heads held high. We will have completed the mission and will have done it the right way, and we will have done every single thing that America asked us to do.”