PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI -- Commanding general of II Marine Expeditionary Force, Lt. Gen. Osman, spoke with the Marines and sailors of Combined Joint Task Force - Haiti during a visit May 5.
The commander took the opportunity to talk with his Marines, let them know how pleased he was with their performance, and address some issues concerning their return to Camp Lejeune and future deployments to Iraq.
“You Marines and sailors are true professionals, you stepped into an awful situation getting boots on the ground and you brought safety and security to a nation that really needed it,” Osman said. “You have truly made a difference and I thank you for it.”
The general also visited with the Task Force commander Brigadier, General Ronald S. Coleman, to discuss the situation here.
“General Osman’s visit was good, it gave him an opportunity to see first hand how things are going down here and it gave him a better perspective of what we are doing,” Coleman said.
The task force commander also said that even though the multinational interim force has done a lot, there is still much left to do, citing the need to have a thorough turn-over to the United Nations in months to come.
“We need to ensure that we do not leave a gap open when the U.N. takes over,” Coleman said. “To do that would be worse than if we had never come here at all.”
The same sentiment was echoed by Osman when he referred to the departure of troops from the country.
“There will be an overlap of forces and we will leave here in an orderly fashion, so that those who follow can continue to do the great things that you have done in the past few months,” Osman said.
Although Osman said he was not certain when the Marines would be leaving here, he said that he hoped to have everyone home before the end of June. With deployments to Operation Iraqi Freedom scheduled for as early as September, Osman assured the Marines that they would leave for Iraq no sooner than the OIF-3 departure in January.
“Some of you were probably programmed to go to OIF part two which starts in September, that won‘t happen to you now,” Osman said. “We’ve made that decision, it’s not fair. So you’ll come home whenever that will be, so you have a chance to get yourselves reoriented, and a chance to do some training before you go at it again. And that won’t be until OIF part three.”
Osman’s address to the troops had a positive effect on the morale of many of the Marines deployed here, according to Coleman, who said he thinks the II MEF commander’s visit to personally address the troops shows that he really cares.
“I’m so glad to see that they are looking out for us here,” said Lance Cpl. Thomas McKenzie, supply clerk with the task force, “I just got back from the Middle East before I deployed here, so it is a relief to hear that I’ll have time in September to see my brother get married,” McKenzie said.
The II MEF commander also commented on the calm restored to the nation, citing the accomplishments of the fairly small task force here.
“It’s amazing what a relatively small force can do to quiet things down and bring order and structure to a country that was very, very troubled,” Osman said. “It’s amazing how quiet things seem in Haiti.”
After addressing the Marine’ questions and concerns, Osman reassured them that their efforts are a job well done.
“Some day when you’re back home, you’ll sit back and reflect on what it was like when you arrived and what it was like when you walked out of here. You should feel really good about that,” Osman said.