MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The commandant and sergeant major of the Marine Corps visited to the Combat Center to tour the base and speak to base personnel Monday.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James T. Conway, and the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent, were greeted at the MCAGCC Expeditionary Air Field by Brig. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus, Combat Center commanding general, and Sgt. Maj. Susan M. Bellis, Combat Center sergeant major.
The commandant and sergeant major then made their way to Sunset Cinema and hosted an open forum to give Marines, sailors, civilians and family members an opportunity to address any issues they have noticed on base or in the Marine Corps.
After discussing the progression of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Conway then handed the microphone to Kent, who discussed topics like reenlistment, bonuses, retention and recruiting.
“You are living the legacy of our Corps and doing an excellent job,” said Kent. “We know you are the ones making it happen each and every day, and we are extremely proud.”
Both men then opened up the floor to anyone with questions, which ranged from inquires about the new Body Composition Program to tattoo policies and initiations of new family programs.
Conway said families play a vital role in the support and happiness of service members across the globe.
“Families are the pivotal point in the equation,” said Conway. “The nation wants to support the Marine Corps and its families.”
Gunnery Sgt. Herrick A. Ross, Combat Center equal opportunity advisor, was one of the Marines who asked the sergeant major a question at the open forum regarding the Marine Corps mentorship program. He added although he has had the pleasure of meeting both men in the past, he was no less impressed by their visitation and words of encouragement.
“It [town hall meeting] reinforced how their legacy will be in the Marine Corps,” said Ross, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native, about the commandant and sergeant major. “They seem to be more open to what not only the ground-side combat Marines’ concerns are, but also how the Marines stateside feel.”
After the open forum, the commandant then made his way to Phelps Hall for lunch, where he took his tray from table to table to chat with young Marines.
He and the sergeant major then arrived at the Tactical Training Exercise Control Group headquarters, where Conway discussed operations and training with TTECG and base officials.
The men then visited the Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group, where they were briefed on standard operations Marines and sailors undergo while training at the Combat Center.
Finally, the men stopped by the Advisor Training Group in Camp Wilson to give the Marines and sailors training there a pep talk and wish them well on their upcoming deployment this winter.
As the sergeant major and commandant prepared to depart on their jet, they shook hands with and handed coins to the Marines who had assisted them throughout the day.
One of the Marines who received both the sergeant major and commandant’s coins was Lance Cpl. Charlie Bailey, a clerk at the command suite.
Bailey was tasked with being the sergeant major’s official driver that day. He said he was excited to have the opportunity to interact with the two highest ranking Marines in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“I thought that getting the opportunity to drive the sergeant major of the Marine Corps around was really great,” said Bailey, a Liberty, Mo., native. “At the end of the trip when I was preparing to take the sergeant major to his plane, he presented me with one of his coins. He told me that I did a good job and that he does not give his coin to many Marines.”
Kent, who made the closing statements of the open forum, reminded Marines and sailors how to continue upholding the Corps’ high standards.
“Remember that plain old leadership by example is the key,” said Kent.