CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Micheal P. Barrett held a town hall meeting for Marines and sailors aboard Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 18.
During the town hall, Gen. Amos and Sgt. Maj. Barrett awarded a corpsman from 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, spoke with the Marines and sailors about the “reawakening” officers and future of the Marine Corps and addressed questions from the service members.
General Amos started the town hall meeting by asking Seaman Jacob Schlauder, a corpsman with 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, to come stand next to him as he told the gathered Marines and sailors why Schlauder was about to be awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a combat distinguishing device.
“I want to thank you on behalf of Lance Cpl. Gregory Juedes,” said Gen. Amos. “He attributes you to having saved his life. Even despite the fact that you yourself were knocked silly, you had the presence of mind to grab him, pull him out of that vehicle and pinch off that femoral artery.”
While on a mounted patrol Jan. 25, 2014, Schlauder’s Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle was hit by an armor-piercing, rocket-propelled grenade, critically wounding the turret gunner and patrol leader. Though Schlauder suffered a traumatic brain injury during the attack, which caused him to repeatedly lose consciousness, he still rendered life-saving medical aid to his turret gunner and others with shrapnel wounds.
After Gen. Amos pinned the medal to Schlauder’s chest, he and Sgt. Maj. Barrett shook his hand and thanked him for his heroic efforts.
Following the award ceremony, Gen. Amos addressed the audience to remind them of and commend them for the progress made in Afghanistan throughout the past six years and reassured them it has not been in vain.
“The Afghan National Army was nonexistent out here,” said Gen. Amos. “When we had 22,000 Marines on the ground, we started training them. Now the Afghan National Army in Helmand has 16,000 soldiers. They’re out there doing independent operations; they’re doing their own casualty evacuations and their own call for fire.”
General Amos went on to tell the service members about the future of the Corps, citing current active-duty force levels of approximately 194,000 Marines that are likely to slim down to 175,000. Though some have been apprehensive about this number, Gen. Amos explained that it is still a larger force than the Marine Corps had when the United States was attacked Sept. 11.
After Gen. Amos gave his last remarks on the drawdown, he handed the floor over to Sgt. Maj. Barrett who took time to thank the Marines for all their hard work.
“I have the honor of sitting before Congress to tell our story,” said Sgt. Maj. Barrett. “The chairman will ask who you are, and I will tell them you are the men and women who intuitively know the joy and sense of purpose that when it comes to great challenges, the cause is great in itself. I’m going to tell them that you are Marines who know what it means to keep company with the finest men and women. You are people who could have gone and done anything with your lives, but you didn’t choose easy lives, you chose to be tough people and that’s who is wearing the cloth. So I get to tell our story. I get to tell Congress about you, and I’m honored that I get to do that.”
General Amos and Sgt. Maj. Barrett then moved on to the topic of strengthening the Marine Corps’ quality as the force draws down. General Amos explained the reawakening of the Corps means keeping the battlefield mindset of focusing on fellow Marines’ lives when they return home.
“It doesn’t mean we were asleep,” said Gen. Amos. “It means we’ve got to have some leadership back home like we do in combat. Out here we pay very close attention to the Marines we work with. That’s what we’re talking about; don’t let anyone steal the direction we’re going.”
He also explained the role of the Marine Corps and where Marines will be serving as the coalition forces transition security responsibilities to the Afghan forces and the Marines reset into peacetime as a crisis response force.
“We don’t know what the hell is going to happen in the world,” explained Gen. Amos. “When it does happen, we know one thing for sure; America’s leadership is going to say, ‘Where are the Marines?… Send them in.’ And we’re going to be ready.”