USS PELELIU – Leaders at the helm of the Marine Corps spent their holiday with the Marines and sailors of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group, Dec. 28.
The 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen James F. Amos; the First Lady of the Marine Corps, Mrs. Bonnie Amos; the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Micheal Barrett; Deputy Commandant of Plans, Policy and Operations, Lt. Gen. Richard Tryon; and Deputy Commandant of Installation and Logistics, Lt. Gen. William Faulkner, along with other officials on the CMC’s staff came to visit the deployed Marines and sailors. The group chose to spend their holidays with the service members and give them thanks.
The official party arrived via two CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 (Rein.), 15th MEU, and proceeded to an all-hands call in the ship’s hangar bay.
The all-hands call started with the awarding of a bronze star with the “V” combat distinguishing device to Sgt. Royce R. Hughie, a team leader with Scout Sniper Platoon, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Hughie received the award for his actions during 3/5’s last deployment to Sangin Province, Afghanistan from 2010-2011.
The CMC then drew in the crowd by telling them an anecdote from a previous Christmas with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.
“This was a Christmas about two years ago,” said Amos. “Sangin was a bad neighborhood. 3/5 had lost over 20 and had 80 severely wounded; it was probably the toughest fight we’ve had in Afghanistan. [The night of Christmas Eve] a bunch of Marines had got their hands on wood that built this raging fire. We stayed out there that night. We told stories, took pictures and talked. It was the best Christmas I’ve had in my life. My point was Christmas deployed with your brothers and your sisters up in an area that was arguably the most dangerous part of all of Afghanistan; we were altogether on Christmas night.”
The SMMC realized how difficult it may have been for some, but reminded them of the brother and sisterhood they shared with the others within the ARG.
“This is your family for the holidays,” said Barrett. “I know that there is nowhere else you’d rather be than forward-deployed serving your nation in whatever capacity you’ve been directed to do. I am humbled and blown away that I get to serve alongside the CMC and serve you in this capacity.”
After four years of requesting to make the holiday visit, the first lady got her chance to show her support as well. Mrs. Amos is well known for the care she shows to the spouses of Marines during tough times.
“We really are honored to be here with all of you today,” said Mrs. Amos. “I’m proud to serve as your advocate within the halls of the Pentagon for programs that support the families. I’d like to wish each of you a belated Merry Christmas and a happy new year.”
Afterwards, the CMC addressed the senior officers on the Marine Corps’ role in current events.
“The CMC’s visit was inspirational,” said Maj. Stephen H. Mount, air officer, 15th MEU, who received a coin after asking the CMC a question. “His being here showed us that what we’re doing as a MEU is important. He spoke of the importance of our presence in the region and our ability to respond to any crises in the region. Additionally, he discussed budgetary concerns, and he reassured us that it wouldn’t affect our readiness. I’m glad they took the time to come out,” added the 39-year-old native of Oceanside, Calif.
The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps addressed the staff non-commissioned officers about retention and career progression.
“I was very inspired to have the CMC and SMMC visit us at-sea,” said Staff Sgt. John H. Crisden, career planner, BLT 3/5, 15th MEU. “He took time to give us as enlisted leaders the pointers to help Marines advance in their career, and he explained what the Marine Corps is looking for when retaining personnel. He gave direct and honest answers to all questions asked,” added the 35-year-old native of Wilmington, Del.
While their visit only lasted a few hours, they made sure the Marines and sailors of the 15th MEU and Peleliu ARG were not forgotten on their holiday away from home.
The 15th MEU is deployed as part of the Peleliu ARG as a U.S. Central Command theater reserve force, providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.