HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
The Marine Corps’ top general and his senior enlisted advisor visited Marines throughout southern Afghanistan to thank them for their service and sacrifice, July 17.
General James F. Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Micheal P. Barrett were greeted by formations of Marines at six locations throughout Helmand province.
The stops were spread through the far corners of the province and included Camp Leatherneck, Forward Operating Base Payne, FOB Geronimo, FOB Jackson, FOB Zeebrugge and Combat Outpost Shir Ghazi.
General Amos said that just three years ago, Helmand province was one of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan, but that’s changed. Marines have taken the fight to insurgents and mentors have partnered with the ANSF, training them to become self-sufficient.
“There are parts of Helmand province that have turned over” to Afghan National Security Forces because of those partnerships, he said.
The Marines’ success is something Gen. Amos and Sgt. Maj. Barrett never tire of talking about to people in the States.
“We brag about you every chance we get,” he said. “We talk about what you’ve done out here… and how you’ve stabilized (the area).”
With this stabilization comes a shift from the how the Marine Corps has operated for the last decade, Gen. Amos said. No longer will the Corps fight extended land wars, like Afghanistan. Rather, the plan is to return to its expeditionary, littoral roots.
Throughout the next four years, the overall size of the Marine Corps is going to streamline from 202,000 Marines to 182,100. The primary focus of effort will be in the Pacific.The Marine Corps’ Unit Deployment Program will allow for three battalions to be spread strategically throughout the Pacific in Japan, Guam and Australia at any one time.
A smaller force, Gen. Amos said, doesn’t mean one that’s less capable.
“We are America’s crisis response force,” he said. “There is no shortage of people who want to do bad things, that’s why there is a Marine Corps.”
Sergeant Maj. Barrett said with the reduction in end strength, there will be fewer promotions and the ones available will be more competitive.
“Bring your 'A' game gentlemen,” Sgt. Maj. Barrett said. “The times of multiple deployments making you stand out from peers are over,” he added. What will help Marines stand out are special duty assignments like drill instructor and recruiting duty.
At each stop, the commandant and sergeant major of the Marine Corps answered questions from Marines.
At COP Shir Ghazi, Gen. Amos presented a Purple Heart to Sgt. Shane Fredericks, infantryman, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. Fredericks, from Syracuse, N.Y., was in a vehicle that struck an improvised explosive device. Fredericks lost consciousness and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Before leaving both Gen. Amos and Sgt. Maj. Barrett told Marines to continue to make smart and ethical decisions on the battle field. The team has just toured the Marine Corps to emphasize the importance of ethical decisions, ensuring the rich history and reputation of the Marine Corps is preserved.
“What I need you to do … is keep your honor clean,” said Gen. Amos.
Editor’s Note: Master Sgt. Brenda Varnadore, Staff Sgt. Brian Buckwalter, Cpl. Ed Galo and Cpl. Mark Garcia contributed to this report.