KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Just a few days before Santa made his trip, Marine Commandant Gen. James L. Jones paid a visit to his Marines securing the Kandahar airport Dec. 19.
After briefs from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) command personnel and special operations forces, Gen. Jones made his way through the mine-littered land to visit Marines guarding the forward perimeters of the airport.
Gen. Jones said that one of the main reasons for his visit was to talk to his Marines in and around the airport. He said that before he speaks to their families at Camp Lejeune, N.C., days later, he wanted to have a first hand account of the condition of his troops' morale.
Gen. Jones, accompanied by the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Alford L. McMichael and 26th MEU commander Col. Andrew P. Frick, walked from frigid fighting holes to wind-battered forward security positions surprising Marines on watch with their unexpected presence.
"It was a pretty honorable thing," said Lance Cpl. Cliffor Moniz, Battalion Landing Team 3/6. "It's not everyday you get to meet the commandant."
Corporal John Souza of BLT 3/6 said it was a very unique experience. "It was a privilege that most people don't get."
Gen. Jones found their morale in good standing. Many of these Marines were the same ones who only weeks before were restlessly awaiting the order to leave the ship and go where they where most needed. The Marines' positive response to the commandant should become a warm message for the families of servicemembers at home and their selfless response to the call to duty should send a message of confidence to the American public.
"This is another show and tell," said Gen. Jones, proud of his Marines' work during Operation Swift Freedom. He said that those who are not familiar with the expeditionary nature of the Corps are often skeptical until they witness it first hand. Recent Marine operations in the "War Against Terrorism" have brought this expeditionary nature to the spotlight. "We spend a lot of time in Washington banging our heads off the wall saying 'We can do this.' We are doing it," said Gen. Jones.
Although a Marine himself, it is often hard for him or anyone to comprehend what an expeditionary force is capable of accomplishing. As the 'head Marine' himself said, "This is very impressive."