MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, visited the Combat Center as part of a tour of West Coast military installations June 17.
Mullen, a native of Los Angeles and the 17th chairman of the joint chiefs, assumed the military’s highest ranking office in October 2007, when he replaced Gen. Peter Pace.
Maj. Judy J. Yoder, the Chairman’s aide-de-camp, explained Mullen spends the majority of his time in Washington and therefore looks forward to trips abroad because they give him the opportunity to see if the information he reads in his daily briefs is accurate.
The Chairman’s tour of the base began at the Explosive Ordnanace Disposal training facility, where he and Brig. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus, Combat Center commanding general, ate lunch and spoke with EOD Marines.
During the question and answer session, Mullen asked the EOD technicians their opinion of where the military stood in terms of fighting improvised explosive devices, and spoke about the military’s past and present effort to combat IEDs.
Mullen said the fight against IEDs has not been easy, but because of EOD technicians coalition forces have been able to apply pressure to the enemy.
“What you’re doing is saving lives,” said Mullen.
When asked if he saw a large scale deployment to Iraq in the future, Mullen said the deployment decision would depend on the country’s level of violence, economy, and political reconciliation.
He said he hopes to see a troop reduction in the fall, and voiced his concern about Marines not having enough time in between deployments to spend with their families.
Mullen said the current deployment routine of seven months deployed and seven months home only gives Marines and sailors an estimated 30 days at home with their loved ones before they return to training.
He said his goal is to increase the deployed to non-deployed ration to 1-2, so after seven months abroad service members can look forward to 14 months stateside.
Once the session concluded, Mullen visited Range 051 where he observed EOD route clearance vehicles, walked a simulated IED lane, discussed current EOD robotics, and toured a homemade explosives lab.
From there, the Chairman made his way to Forward Operating Base 3 at Range 215 where he received an overview of the Mojave Viper Exercise. While there he toured the exercise’s company-level operations center and detention facility, and discussed detainee operations, before moving on to the course’s Government Center.
There, Mullen, walked through many simulations, which included replications of Iraqi Army and Police Compounds where partnering with Iraqi soldiers and police was discussed.
Mullen himself took part in a simulation when he met with the center’s mayor, role player Frank Matti. Matti and other role players met Mullen in-character and later described to him the engagement training which Mojave Viper provides.
Matti, a native of Baghdad, told Mullen the role-players take their job seriously because it allows them to fix mistakes made by service members before they make the same mistakes in country and possibly pay for them with their lives.
After the discussion, Mullen, said he was impressed with the training’s level of detail and authenticity, and thanked the many role players for their contribution and effort.
Before leaving the range, Mullen addressed members of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, from Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, and Combat Logistics Battalion 5, Combat Logistics Regiment 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.
In his speech to the Marines and sailors, Mullen spoke about the Marine Corps’ growth and retention plans, but more importantly thanked those in attendance for their sacrifice and for the sacrifices their families have made.
“You have made a difference. Iraq is a better place,” he said. “Thanks for being the Marines you are.”
The tour concluded with a visit to the Combat Center’s Camp Wilson, where Mullen observed the Virtual Combat Convoy Trainer, HMMWV Egress Assistance Trainer, USMC Operator Driver Simulator (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Variant), before holding an informal talk with Advisor Training Group Transition Teams.
“I’ve been incredibly impressed with what I’ve seen,” said Mullen.
In addition to given praise to the training at the Combat Center, he reaffirmed his commitment to helping the Marine Corps evolve as America’s force in readiness.
Lastly, Mullen thanked the Marines and sailors for putting on the uniform, told them to thank their families for their efforts and sacrifice, and to continue to lead the fight.
“This is the best military we have had, and it is because of you,” he said.