CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Iraq -- Lt. Gen. Wallace C. Gregson, commander of Marine Forces Central, paid a visit to the Marines and sailors of 1st Marine Division here March 28.
During his brief trip to the camp, Gregson spoke to nearly 200 members of the "Blue Diamond" about their role in the Global War on Terror. He explained that the war in Iraq was one slice of the fight to defeat terrorism.
"What you're doing here in Iraq is a very big piece of history," Gregson said. "This is the biggest and most important thing that is going on in America right now."
According to the former infantryman, the current security and stabilization mission in Iraq is something out of the ordinary for Marine units. Most of the warriors within the division were involved in combat operations during the invasion of Iraq last summer.
"You must understand that this is not a normal campaign for us. We're not out here counting tanks and ammunition like last year," he said. "We're right on the mark helping the people of Iraq get back on track, so we can get out of here."
Gregson described 1st Marine Division's Commanding General Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis' commander's intent as "forward thinking." Mattis calls for Marines and sailors to "first, do no harm" and then be "no better friend, no worse enemy."
"Marines have always excelled at missions that are strange and non-traditional," Gregson added.
As his visit went on, Marines had the opportunity to address any questions or concerns to Gregson. The general answered questions about stop loss and stop move, the United Nation's role in the campaign in Iraq and how the turnover of the country's power was progressing.
After the hands quit going up, Gregson joked, "I feel like I just completed a college examination. These guys were tough."
Lance Cpl. Philip W. Pitts, motor transportation mechanic, said the general's visit was important because he better understands why the military forces are still in Iraq.
"I learned a lot from General Gregson about what's happening on the political side," said Pitts, of Dallas.
The general also expressed his gratitude to the Marines and sailors here.
"I want you all to know that what you're doing here is very important. That's the most important message I want to pass on to you," Gregson said.
After hearing these remarks, Pitts explained, "It's important that someone as high up on the chain of command as General Gregson comes and tells you that what you're doing is important.
It makes me feel like there is a greater reason for being in Iraq."