AL ASAD, Iraq -- A congressional delegation of U.S. House of Representative members and staff visited 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing personnel here, Oct. 10.
Christopher Shays, the representative from Connecticut’s 4th District, led the group of six House members and staff from Washington to Al Asad to get a firsthand view of the Marine Corps’ Aviation Combat Element, and to spend time with the service members behind the scenes of security and stabilization operations. This was Shays’ 10th visit to Iraq, where he says our military must make reconstruction and stabilization efforts the top priority.
“On a scale of one to 10, the performance of our troops during the war was an 11,” Shays said. “Our commitment to the future of the Iraqi people must be just as significant.”
The congressmen from Connecticut, Massachusetts, North Dakota, New York, Wisconsin and American Samoa were briefed on 2nd MAW’s progress and ongoing operations by the Wing’s forward commanding general, Brig. Gen. Robert E. Milstead, visited the Fighting Griffins of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 and the Banshees of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 1 and had lunch with service members from their represented areas.
“Everyone has different reasons for coming,” said Massachusetts Rep. Michael Capuano. “But, all of us are taking the opportunity to thank the military for their service. We want them to know they have our support.”
For American Samoa Congressman Eni Faleomavaega, the visit with the Fighting Griffins included a familiar sight.
“I remember these helicopters (the CH-46 Sea Knight) very well,” the former Army Soldier and Vietnam veteran said. “It’s amazing to see them in such good condition. They are wonderful aircraft that have served well over the years, it’s good to see Marines taking care of them.”
The visit was a good opportunity for the Marines to see their elected officials in Washington are involved and paying attention to OIF, said Lt. Col. Joseph E. George, commanding officer of HMM-266.
“We had a very good exchange between our Marines and the U.S. representatives,” George said. “It was good for our Marines to know that our congressional leaders are interested enough about their mission and welfare to visit and ask pertinent questions.”
Being face to face with the Marines behind the scenes also gave the congressmen a chance to connect mission hours and objectives with regular, hard-working Marines, George said.
“I believe that it helps the Marines to know the story of how hard they are working is now clear to our country’s decision makers,” George said. “During the month of September, HMM-266 flew 930 hours. That rate represents 300 percent of what the normal rate is for a CH-46 squadron of 12 aircraft. The representatives took note of that and that such accomplishments are the result of diligent and tireless young mechanics and dedicated aircrews.”
The congressmen spent their time with the service members talking about where they were from, their jobs and their experiences during the deployment.
“Your families care about you and miss you, they want you to be safe and come home soon,” Ron Kind, Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District representative, told a group of service members during his third visit to Iraq. “That is a big part of why I’m here. I want to see that you are conducting your mission safely and efficiently so you can get home to your families as soon as possible.”
When the representatives return to Washington, they will all carry different ideas and information to use, but they will be united in pride for their military members, Capuano said.
“Really, no matter how different our views or politics are, we all support our troops,” Capuano said. “Seeing them out here is a good reminder of the quality of young people we have and how proud we all should be of the effort they give.”