MCAS BEAUFORT, S.C. -- The 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James T. Conway, and the 16th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent, visited the Air Station Jan. 29.
During their visit, the distinguished guests ate lunch with several Air Station noncommissioned officers, held a town hall meeting and listened to an Air Station command brief.
At the town hall meeting, the commandant and the sergeant major had the opportunity to talk to Fightertown Marines about the future of the Corps.
“What I envision you are going to see is a significant transition of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan,” Conway said. “The Al Anbar Province is in incredible condition today; but while Iraq is getting better, Afghanistan is getting worse.”
In addition to speaking on the shift of troops, the commandant also spoke about recent meetings with the newly elected president and what effect Department of Defense budget cuts mean for the Marine Corps.
“I think in the final analysis, (the Marine Corps) will be in a pretty good spot,” Conway said. “We are a pretty good buy. We represent about six percent annually of the Department of Defense budget, but we bring 24 percent of the maneuver formations, 15 percent of the attack aircraft, 19 percent of the attack helicopters – that’s all pretty good for only six percent.
“We are an organization that is built for the fight,” he continued. “And I truly believe that for six percent, you have to be pleased when you cast your eyes on the United States Marine Corps.”
Following the commandant’s opening remarks, the sergeant major of the Marine Corps took a few minutes to thank the Marines, especially the noncommissioned officers.
“Our Corps is going in the right direction because of Marines like you,” Kent said. “As far as the NCOs in the Marine Corps, you truly are the backbone of our Corps. We have great leaders, officers, staff NCOs, but the NCOs are the heart of this great Corps.”
The town hall meeting ended with Marines in the audience asking their senior leadership questions. The commandant and sergeant major answered hot-topic questions about the Joint Strike Fighter and the possible impact on the Lowcountry, questions on Afghanistan, the economy, the size of the Corps and even the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
“I thought the meeting was very beneficial to the morale of the Marines on the Air Station,” said Cpl. Erik Pye, a training clerk for Marine Aircraft Group 31. “To get questions answered from the commandant and the sergeant major of the Marine Corps assures the information we received was first hand and accurate.”