AR RAMADI, Iraq -- It was early in the afternoon in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, but a few stars were out for the Marines of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.
The senior leaders of I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) stopped by Camp Hurricane Point on Feb. 2, to visit with the Marines and talk about pertinent issues to their deployment.
Major Gen. Richard C. Zilmer, commanding general of I MEF (Forward); Sgt. Major Thomas H. Howard, sergeant major of I MEF (Forward); and Master Chief Petty Officer James E. Walker, command master chief of I MEF (Forward), each took time to speak to the Marines available to attend.
Each senior leader began their speeches by expressing their appreciation for the efforts of the Marines in the battalion.
The battalion’s performance thus far has been seen as impressive by the leaders of I MEF.
“Across the board this battalion has performed well above expectations,” said Sgt. Major Howard, who also carried a message of “job well done” from Sgt. Major John L. Estrada, sergeant major of the Marine Corps, and Sgt. Major Carlton Kent, who is selected to be the 16th sergeant major of the Marine Corps.
While the sergeant major and command master chief focused mainly on their appreciation and admiration for the Marines and sailors, Maj. Gen. Zilmer delved into operations in the province and the battalion’s effect on them.
One of the commanding general’s strongest messages involved the importance of the battalion’s area of responsibility.
“Ramadi has symbolic importance to the province,” said Maj. Gen. Zilmer. “We believe that if you turn Ramadi, you turn the rest of Anbar.”
During the speech, Maj. Gen. Zilmer also spoke of the Marines and sailors making their mark in military history.
Working in such an important aspect of the war, Maj. Gen. Zilmer felt the battalion was rewriting history for the Marine Corps.
“When historians look back on this war, there will be a chapter on Ramadi and (1/6) will be a big part of that,” said Maj. Gen. Zilmer.
After the speeches ended and questions for the senior leaders became scarce, Marines were called forward to meet with the commanding general.
It was during this time that Maj. Gen. Zilmer and Sgt. Major Howard chose to combat meritoriously promote a Marine from the battalion.
Called forward under the pretense that he enjoyed asking questions, Lance Cpl. Matthew D. Hutson, a 20-year-old point man for Weapons Company, was a little confused as he approached the commanding general.
“I didn’t have a clue what was going on, I don’t even like to talk that much,” said Hutson, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio.
After a short discussion of how long Hutson had been a lance corporal, Maj. Gen. Zilmer announced that he was going to fix the problem.
In front of more than 60 Marines and sailors of the battalion, Hutson was promoted to the rank of corporal by the I MEF commanding general.
“It was an experience, and something I’ll never forget,” said Hutson.
Becoming a non-commissioned officer at the hands of a commanding general, Hutson feels a heightened responsibility as a young leader of Marines.
“Since I was pinned on by Major General Zilmer, I feel like more is expected of me now,” said Hutson.