CAMP KOREAN VILLAGE, Iraq --
Reserve Marines from 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment
, Regimental Combat Team 5 based here received an honored guest at their remote desert outpost Nov. 26.
The Honorable Donald C. Winter, the 74th secretary of the Navy, flew from Al Asad Air Base to Camp Korean Village, about 50 miles from the Syrian border, to visit with the Marines, sailors and soldiers based here and to wish them a happy Thanksgiving.
Appointed by the president of the United States as secretary of the Navy in January 2006, Mr. Winter is one of the most senior officials in the Marines and sailors’ chain of command. However, he spoke candidly with the troops and encouraged them to honestly express their assessment of the latest equipment in theater and to convey what additional equipment they need to better accomplish their mission.
After a current situation report from Lt. Col. Geoff Rollins, the 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines’ battalion commander, Mr. Winter’s next stop was at the Navy Shock Trauma Platoon’s field medical station on the base.
“I have a special place in my heart for corpsmen,” Mr. Winter told the Navy reservists. Mr. Winter’s father was a petty officer who served as a pharmacy mate during World War II.
The secretary and his staff made their way around the base, traversing the lunar-like surface of the camp on foot. He took the opportunity to address a formation of Marines, sailors and soldiers from a stage which had been built several days earlier out of plywood.
Mr. Winter thanked the troops for their service and emphasized the significance of their contributions in fighting the Global War on Terror. He also pinned the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal on several Marines and sailors and gave them his official coins.
Lance Cpl. Robert J. Albon, 21, a radio systems communications technician with 2nd Bn., 25th Marines from Brockton, Mass., received his award for displaying technical proficiency far beyond his rank and experience. Albon’s citation stated that he working relentlessly, over 400 man hours in austere conditions, to ensure that the battalion’s communications equipment was ready to support the battalion’s demanding counterinsurgency mission in Iraq.
“It was an honor and very surprising,” said Albon, who did not learn that Mr. Winter was coming to the base until that day. “I was just shocked that I could get my award from someone who is so important in the development on the Navy and the Marine Corps.”
Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Marie was awarded his medal for taking over the role of religious program specialist leading petty officer for the battalion, despite his junior rank. Additionally, Marie dedicated his free time before his mobilization to coordinating the donations of 1,200 bibles from both his church and a non-profit organization.
“Hopefully he didn’t see my knees shaking,” said Marie, 31, a reservist from Unionville, Conn., who is a property and casualty insurance agent in his civilian career.
“It definitely made the event more memorable,” added Marie. “It’s something I’m proud of. It was my first NAM, and the biggest surprise was that it was signed by the Secretary of the Navy. It is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Mr. Winter and his staff then shared an early Thanksgiving with Rollins and his troops at the base dining facility.
“This is an incredible collection of sailors, Marines and soldiers out here in al-Anbar, far from any base of logistical support,” Mr. Winter said of the troops he met and spoke with during his four-hour stay on the base. “They are doing incredible things for our lines of communication with the people of Rutbah.”
When asked what added advantage Marine Forces Reserve brings to the fight in Iraq, Mr. Winter responded, “The reserves gives us an incredible surge capability and the ability to sustain that stature with the level of personnel required. We can tap into skills and experience here that would be difficult to maintain with just active duty. We have succeeded in fully integrating active and reserve forces.”
In speaking of the progress made by the Navy and Marine Corps team, Mr. Winter explained, “We have made incredible strides in the past years. This is evident to those who have had the privilege to come here and see the change. I hope that we will turn over all responsibility to the Iraqis in the near future.”