MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
The Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Conway and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Carlton Kent, hosted a town hall meeting March 26, 2010, during their current West Coast tour of Marine Corps installations.
Conway spoke to a capacity crowd at the station chapel to discuss current topics in the Marine Corps and take questions from station service members before attending his first-ever Yuma Air Show on March 27.
The town hall meeting began with Conway addressing the current situation in Iraq.
Fewer than 130 Marines currently remain in Iraq and all the Corps’ equipment has been removed, said Conway.
During the majority of the time spent by the Corps in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, more than 20,000 Marines were deployed there at any given time.
“We’re not built, trained or equipped to do nation-building, but we did it pretty well,” said Conway.
Regardless, Conway discussed the Corps’ current similar operations in Afghanistan.
The Corps is on the offense in Helmand Province, building to a total of 19,000 troops, said Conway.
The Corps’ primary goals in Afghanistan are to stop drug money from getting to the Taliban, stabilize the Afghani government and maintain the offensive on Taliban forces.
“Putting the (19,000-troop) cap on troops in Afghanistan should hopefully get us to the one-to-two ratio this year across most (job fields),” said Conway, in reference to units staying in garrison for twice as long as they are deployed.
With the Corps’ increase to 202,000 troops, this keeps Marines out of the battlefield giving the Corps a chance to return to its maritime roots.
“We have got to get back to the seas and ships,” said Conway. “We used to do 10 (combined arms exercises) a year; now we do zero. We used to say ‘any enemy, anywhere’ and mean it.”
Kent then talked to those in attendance about the unlikelihood of making the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program a mandatory annual training requirement to maintain belts.
“The problem with making (MCMAP) annual is the current operational tempo, but (MCMAP) should be taken very seriously,” said Kent.
Before ending the town hall meeting, Conway and Kent took a variety of questions from station personnel regarding tattoo regulations, reenlistments and the future of the Marine Corps to name a few.
After leaving Yuma, Conway and Kent are slated to visit California-based Marines in Twentynine Palms, Camp Pendleton, and Miramar, before returning to Washington.