ABOARD USS BATAAN -- The 34th Commandant and 15th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps visited the more than 2,200 Marines and Sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit today.
After meeting with 26th MEU personnel aboard USS Oak Hill and Shreveport, Gen. James T. Conway and Sgt. Maj. John L. Estrada landed here to speak to the service members and promote four Marines on the flight deck.
Conway's message was simple; "You are out here doing what Marines do."
"You have elected to serve this great nation during a critical time in its history," said Conway during his address to the forces here.
Once done speaking to the troops, Conway and Estrada went inside the ship for a luncheon with the officers and senior enlisted members of the MEU and discussed current issues in the Marine Corps.
Having the chance to meet such prominent figures of the Marine Corps perked the spirits of the troops.
"It definitely lifted the morale of a bunch of the Marines," said Cpl. Timothy E. Benway, a team leader in Company E, Battalion Landing Team 2/2, the MEU's ground combat element. "[Conway] addressed concerns that are important to the Marines."
Col. Gregg A. Sturdevant, commanding officer of the 26th MEU, said opportunities like this are important to the Marines and Sailors of the MEU.
"I think it is important for the Marines and Sailors of the 26th MEU to hear from their Commandant so they have a better understanding of what his concerns are," said Sturdevant.
"At the same time the Commandant comes out to visit the Marines and Sailors forward deployed to hear what's on their minds," he added, explaining that perceptions from Washington, D.C., often differ from what is actually going on in the fleet. "The Commandant and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps visits give them an appreciation for conditions in the field," he said.
Finishing their luncheon with personnel here, Conway and Estrada departed the Bataan for a chance to visit the Marines and Sailors ashore participating in Exercise Eastern Maverick 2007.
Sturdevant said he was proud of his Marines' and Sailors' performance during the visit.
"Today they showed the Commandant and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps what a great unit the MEU is," he said, adding that all the service members listened intently and asked well-thought-out questions.
After speaking to service members ashore, Conway and Estrada continued their tour of other Marine units in the area.
Conway became Commandant of the Marine Corps Nov. 13, 2006, a seat previously held by Gen. Michael W. Hagee, 33rd Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Estrada is scheduled to retire this year and Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent will take his place as the 16th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.
The Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group is currently supporting maritime security operations (MSO) in the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command area of operations. Coalition forces conduct MSO under international maritime conventions to ensure security and safety in international waters so that all commercial shipping can operate freely while transiting the region.
For more information, news, photos and video, please visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu/.
For more photos of this event, please visit www.usmc.mil/cmc/photos/index.html