Apr 24, 2009
Sect Gates visits Marines !
Gates Visits Lejeune
Jacksonville (NC) Daily News
April 24, 2009
By Jennifer Hlad
The Marines had a special guest at their training Thursday, as they wrap up pre-deployment exercises in preparation for a tour in Afghanistan.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited Camp Lejeune, stopping by to watch 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion conduct a mock attack on a village at the Military Operations in Urban Terrain facility, and see 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, train to recognize roadside bombs.
The Marines will leave in the next few weeks to join the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade in southern Afghanistan.
"You know the challenge," Gates told the Marines from 2nd LAR, after they completed their attack. "We will do everything we can to support you. ... Get those guys."
In the LAR exercise, the Marines were acting on intelligence that a high-value target was in the village, and the objective was to capture him. Maj. Steven Sutey, operations officer for 2nd LAR, said urban operations are some of the most difficult to conduct.
Sgt. Anthony Bellido, a vehicle commander with 2nd LAR Battalion, said the idea was to "get in there as quickly as possible and get him out."
The training incorporated the vehicles and the Marines in an urban environment, said 2nd Lt. Phil Ernst, first platoon commander. Having Gates present was good for the Marines' morale, he said.
"Most of the work we do, there's not a single person watching," Ernst said.
Gates said the visit was a great opportunity to talk to the Marines, who he called "incredibly impressive," and see their training.
He addressed a question about repeated deployments, saying the fact that many service members are on their fourth or fifth deployment makes them "the most battle hardened force the United States has probably ever had in its history."
"I think these men and women want to be in the fight," he said. "Frankly, for months, (Marine Commandant) Gen. (James) Conway has been telling me that the Marines in Anbar province in Iraq are, frankly, bored, and want to get into the fight; and that certainly was the impression I got this morning."
Still, he said the growth of the Marine Corps and the drawdown in Iraq will hopefully result in more time at home between deployments.
Bellido has deployed to Iraq three times and said he is looking forward to deploying to Afghanistan. Ernst said he also is excited to deploy.
"I think all the guys are ready, they're all prepared," Ernst said