FALLUJAH, Iraq -- The Corps’ senior leaders visited several homebound 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment personnel aboard one of their forward operating bases in northern Fallujah Sept. 25.
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Michael W. Hagee and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps John. L. Estrada lauded the Marines and sailors on their successes combating the anti-Iraqi insurgency throughout the area during the past seven months.
“Thank you for making such a huge difference in the lives of the Iraqi people,” Estrada stated. “You have given the people here the chance to dream of and live for freedom, and I admire your loyalty and commitment to that cause.”
Hagee then followed with a few congratulatory remarks of his own, citing today’s Marine Corps is far superior to that in which he first served. He said this adaptability was a key factor to success in the urban battlefield of Fallujah, where insurgents disguise themselves as part of the local community.
“Back in the days when I was a company commander, my Marines would’ve had a tough time differentiating between the good and the bad guys. You all have that capability,” he continued.
Hagee and Estrada both also applauded the troops on their efforts in training the Iraqi Security Forces here. Since mid-March, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment conducted every patrol, raid and humanitarian assistance mission alongside the local soldiers to afford them “on the job” training. To complement this, the troops also formally instructed more than 700 ISF personnel on topics ranging from urban warfare tactics and first aid in combat, to convoy operating and basic combat engineering skills. This included knowledge on how to properly fortify their downtown bases with wire and hardened bunkers.
A question and answer session followed the leaders’ remarks, during which the infantrymen presented their concerns on subjects such as armored vehicle protection and the Corps’ current high operational tempo.
“We’ve been at war longer during the Global War on Terrorism than we were during World War II, and we will continue to deploy, even when we come out of Iraq. That’s what Marines and sailors have always done,” Hagee stated.
The Corps is investing time, money and effort to equip the Marines as best as possible for whatever future missions arise, however. Hagee said that new vehicle armoring systems are constantly being researched to minimize the threat of improvised explosive devices, currently the biggest troop threat in Iraq.
“We’re doing everything we can to protect our Marines,” Hagee said, after explaining that future military vehicle armoring systems will offer increased protection and be easier to install and remove.
Additionally, Hagee said that despite the dangers and back-to-back deployments war entails, the Corps has kept its robust manpower strength. Currently, the Marines are meeting their recruiting and retention goals, he said.
Hagee and Estrada ended the meeting with a few last words of encouragement.
“In my opinion, future battlefields are going to be similar to this one,” Hagee said. “It will be up to the junior officers and NCOs (noncommissioned officers) to make big decisions, just like you all have been doing such a spectacular job of out here. Both the Sergeant Major and I want to thank you for your service to the Corps and to our great nation.”
“Marines are the best war fighters the world over, not just because of your proficiency in combat, but because of your compassion,” Estrada said, agreeing with Hagee. “We are extremely proud of what you’ve accomplished here.”