CAMP GANNON, Iraq --
General James T. Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps, recently visited the Marines here with Alpha Company, Task Force 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, attached to Regimental Combat Team 2.
The Marines listened as the Commandant explained how the Marine Corps is expanding its force, the new air and ground vehicles replacing the up-armored humvee and the CH-46 and CH-53D helicopters respectively, how America views Marine operations and the new physical training uniform.
“We owe the nation an amphibious force,” Conway said.
The Commandant explained that the Marine Corps infantry is currently on a 1:1 deployment rate. This means the battalions have been deployed for 7 months and have had a 7 month dwell-time at home before their next deployment. He said, the additional 27,000 Marines should help change the current ratio, but the effects will not be felt for a few years.
“If you were thinking about having a 9 month dwell-time before being deployed again, that’s not the truth,” Conway said.
The Commandant also spoke about the Marine Corps’ push to receive new vehicles in deployed areas.
“The up armored humvee is what’s golden here,” he said, “but we now see an even better vehicle.”
The ‘better vehicle’ is called the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP). The Marine Corps chose this vehicle based on its v-shaped hull and ability to withstand a larger explosive force, such as an improvised explosive device, and its already excellent track record of keeping American service members alive.
“There have been over 348 attacks against MRAPs and we are yet to see a single Marine or sailor die,” he said.
The Commandant expressed that the Marine Corps has been unusually less-frugal with its funding for these vehicles.
“Price is not an issue when it comes to protecting our Marines,” he explained.
There will also be a new mechanical bird of prey in the Al Anbar province. The V-22, commonly known as the Osprey, will be replacing some of the older CH-53D and CH-46 helicopters already deployed here. The commandant explained how the Osprey has had problems in its past but it’s now safe for a combat zone.
“It’s had a pretty checkered past, but I’ve ridden in it three times now and it’s an excellent ride,” Conway said.
The Osprey also has the ability to fly higher than the older Vietnam-era helicopters currently being used by Marines.
“It can fly well above anything out here that could knock it down,” he said.
Conway also spoke to Marines about how the American public and its politicians view the ongoing operations in Iraq.
“The country is behind you,” he said.
He also explained, majority of the American public’s opinion concerning the surge is that it has generally worked. The politicians, however, have had a longstanding argument between each other over the possibility of troop withdrawal.
“People are making the difference between the argument on policy and the decision to support our troops,” he said.
At the beginning of Conway’s term as the Commandant of the Marine Corps, he expressed wanting to change the simple olive-green cotton physical training uniform. The goal was to transform the new PT uniform into a multiple climate-capable uniform up to date with today’s outdoor exercise clothing. The new uniform is almost finished and features a new wicking material, but the commandant is unsure about certain features such as its dark color.
“Right now it’s mainly black and that’s the problem I have with it,” he said.
The Commandant is concerned that the dark coloring will hinder Marines in warmer climates.
“We’re going to put some fairly obvious reflective material on the new uniform,” he said.
The reflective material would allow Marines to exercise outside during the early morning hours before work. The Marine Corps currently mandates Marines to wear a reflective belt when exercising during hours of darkness.
The new uniform’s dark colors will be changed and Marines should expect to wear the new uniform this winter.
“It will be in the sea bag this November,” he said. “It will be issued to enlisted Marines, but officers will have to pay for it themselves.”
The Commandant answered Marines questions, thanked them for their successes during their deployment and left for his helicopter.
Marine officers have always informed their Marines on changes in the Corps and how it affects their Marines. The Commandant chooses to inform his Marines in person.