Commanding General visits troops in Haiti

9 Apr 2003 |

The 2d Marine Division commanding general visited troops here supporting Operation Secure Tomorrow during a three-day visit April 5 through 7.

With the majority of the Marines serving here deployed from the 2d Marine Division, the visit gave Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Johnson the opportunity to see first hand the living conditions, training and operations of his forces.

“Sergeant Major Himsworth (2d Marine Division Sergeant Major) and I came down to see the Marines,” Johnson explained. “We came to see them, see what conditions they are living under, what training we might be able to help them with, and seeing if there are any problems we might be able to solve. “We know what they have been doing by virtue of their reporting,” he continued. “Coming down, seeing it first hand, allows us to appraise the situation better.”

“The general’s visit does three things,” said Col. Mark Gurganus, the MAGTF commander.
“First and most important, it has a tremendous positive impact on morale to know that their commanding general will take the time out of his busy schedule to spend three days with them,” he continued. “It shows the Marines and sailors that they are not forgotten and that they are cared for.
That assessment was reinforced by a number of Marines.

“I have felt like everyone has forgotten about us,” explained Pfc. Brian E. Faidley, a Sommerset, Pa. native with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. “It is good to know they haven’t.”
The general’s visit was able to boost the morale of  Marines who don’t fall under his command.

“It made me feel good that he came over to talk with us even though he isn’t our commanding general,” stated Lance Cpl. Melinda E. Sims, an intelligence specialist with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron – 269. “It makes us feel like we haven’t been forgotten.

“I appreciate the fact that they are acknowledging that we are working hard,” the Panama City, Fla. native continued. “And that our job is just as important as the grunts (infantry).

According to Gurganus, the second thing it does is it gives it gives the general situational awareness of what is going on in Haiti.

“It lets him get a firsthand look at our issues so he can lend his weight as the commanding general,” he explained. “And he can go back and give his boss (the 2d Marine Expeditionary Force Commanding General) a good read on what is going well and what is not going well.

“Third, it gives him the opportunity to witness techniques, tactics and procedures we are using in this environment, which he can take back and pass along,” Gurganus explained. “This may be valuable for other units preparing for Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

“I think there are a lot of things they are doing here we can take back,” Johnson agreed. “They are certainly doing some operations out in town in terms of their patrolling that is very useful for training Marines to go to other areas where there are urban operations, such as Iraq or Afghanistan. They are actually doing stuff on the ground that would be required if they went elsewhere.

“Anytime you deploy to a different place you have to deal with different circumstances, for example, their re-supply channels come from different place and they had to learn how to deal with that.”

During his visit, 2d Marine Division’s commanding general visited all of the Marines’ firm bases, the Combat Service Support Detachment, the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment’s headquarters, the Marine Air Ground Task Force –8’s headquarters, Marines located in both Bel Air and Cite Soleil districts, the Marines and Sailors from HMLA – 269, as well as the Marines at the National Palace and prime minister’s residence.

“He will leave here with a good feel of what we are up against,” Gurganus explained.
To complete his picture of operations, Johnson also conducted a day and night tour of the city from both the ground and the air as well as assessed water and school supply distributions being conducted here.

“I am very pleased with what I have seen,” Johnson stated. “Everyone is alert. Everyone knows what is going on. There is a lot of initiative and a lot of innovation going on where they don’t have things.

“This is certainly a shoestring operation,” he continued. “They came with what they had and they have done a great job of assimilating what they have with the situation. “It is the kind of things that we want Marines to do, deploy quickly and be effective when they get there.”