AL ASAD, Iraq -- Getting a chance to see the Commandant while deployed in a combat environment is a rare and motivating opportunity for many Marines. Marines at Al Asad, Iraq, who recently sat down with
the Corps’ top leaders, said the honor is beyond words.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Michael W. Hagee, accompanied by Lt. Gen. John W. Bergman, commander of Marine Forces Reserve and Lt. Gen. Robert R. Blackman Jr., commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Atlantic, ate with Marines at the dining facility here Dec. 6 and 7.
“It was an experience I will never forget,” said Lance Cpl. Cody J. Trapp, a small arms repairman with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 774 and a Sioux Falls, S.D., native. “Meeting and actually being able to sit down and carry a conversation with him was an honor and a privilege.”
During the meals at Al Asad, the commandant shared laughs and listened to questions with Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Combat Logistics Battalion 2 and 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.
“I never expected to sit and talk with the top generals of the U. S. Marine Corps, let alone have chow with them in a war zone,” said Cpl. Hermon Franklin, an aviation supply specialist with 2nd MAW and a Washington native. “To me, this means I am not out here alone. If three and four star generals can come out here, it shows we are not fighting this war alone.”
Franklin said this proves to him that the Marine Corps’ motto Semper Fidelis really means always faithful.
“I was very honored to be able to eat chow and talk with the top generals in the Marine Corps,” said Cpl. Thomas Burns II, 2nd MAW personnel chief and a Coventry, R.I., native. “It shows they are interested in what younger Marines have to say on current issues and policies of today’s Marine Corps.”
Both Burns and Trapp said their deployments are going well, and they said Marines all around them are working hard getting their mission accomplished. For their efforts in accomplishing the mission, Burns and Trapp were awarded challenge coins from the commandant.
“I don’t give coins to just anyone,” Hagee said to the six Marines from 2nd MAW who earned his coin. “You have to do an outstanding job, go above and beyond what is asked of you on a daily basis and be recommended by the staff noncommissioned officers in charge of you. You Marines have stood out from your peers.”
Trapp said it feels good knowing the top generals in the Marine Corps care and will actually take the time to hear the voices of the younger generation of Marines.
“Receiving a coin from the commandant was an experience I will never forget, and one few Marines get the opportunity to experience,” said Burns. “This has shown me that my hard work and dedication does not go unnoticed by senior Marines and officers in my command.”
The Marines said they enjoyed the chance to tell the highest ranking Marine their thoughts and ideas.
“During breakfast, we were asked to express our opinions on a few different subjects ranging from the Marine Corps to being deployed to personal experiences,” said Burns. “It was a good experience having this opportunity to express your ideas and opinions to someone who could possibly influence future decisions.”