AL ASAD, Iraq -- “The Navy Marine Corps team, standing shoulder to shoulder, speaks very clearly to the world power.”
These words were spoken by Brig. Gen. Robert E. Milstead Jr. to an audience of Marines and sailors as they celebrated the Navy’s Birthday, Oct. 13, while deployed at Al Asad, Iraq.
Milstead spoke about how the Navy-Marine Corps team role in the world has changed from defensive during the Cold War, to preemptive in order to act rapidly and divisively against anyone who would harm the United States, and he added nobody does it better.
The Navy was born on Oct. 13, 1775, by an act of the Continental Congress.
“Our birthday is a time to reflect back on our traditions and look forward on the years to follow,” said Seaman Laketa Addair, a corpsman with Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2. “It was really nice to get out and celebrate our birthday in the field. It was interesting to watch them cut the cake with a kabar.”
Following Navy tradition, Capt. Stephen Epperson, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing chaplain and Seaman Brian Sherwood, Marine Aircraft Group 26 chaplain assistant, the oldest and youngest Sailors aboard Al Asad cut the cake during the celebration.
“The sailors who have served with the Marines for so long have really learned to adapt and overcome to any situation and (the ceremony) turned out great,” said Addair, a native of Raysad, W.V. “Although we missed the ball, which is a great social event, the birthday celebration was a great chance to met Sailors from the different units deployed out here. In some aspects, it really felt the same.”
The celebration included speeches from Milstead as well as various sailors, including Capt. John B. Delcambre, the medical officer with Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 22, a former Marine who served in Vietnam and was awarded three purple hearts.
“After Vietnam, I had flashbacks,” Delcambre, whose career spans three decades on three continents, told the crowd. “I had flashbacks of the selfless dedication, the courage, the commitment and of the admiration I felt for the group of Navy corpsman we called docs.”
Delcambre’s speech had an impact on undoubtedly many of the Marines and sailors present, said Addair.
“(Delcambre) talking about his experiences and challenges that reflect someone who has been through history,” said Addair. “It gives you hope to return home with this deployment as a proud memory.”
Addair said she has the best job in the Navy, serving as a corpsman with Marines, and that Marines are different from what she expected.
“Most sailors serve on the ships and in the hospitals back home,” said Addair. “I’m out here with Marines fighting the war. Marines are all about the job at hand. They do their job well and are very intelligent. I have a great deal of respect for them. You don’t have to be in Baghdad having bullets flying over you to have a vital role in the war. Having the Marine General at the celebration really meant a great deal to me. It brought us together more as a Navy-Marine Corps team than any of the other event I’ve ever been to.”
Since the early days, when the U.S. Navy was challenging the most powerful navy in the world, sailors have, and continue to play a vital role in the United States’ national security at home and aboard.
“I’m happy to be here,” said Delcambre. “I have never been in better company, and I look forward to serving with you during this deployment.”