AL ASAD, Iraq -- Morale was high and spirits were lifted when Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps John L. Estrada paid a visit to the deployed Marines and Sailors of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing here August 18.
Traveling across the region alongside Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Terry D. Scott on a joint tour intended to motivate and inspire the deployed Marines and Sailors here, Estrada, the former sergeant major of 3rd MAW, had an opportunity to visit the unit he lead during the initial stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“I have my (3rd MAW) Marines in combat,” said Estrada, “and while they are in combat I’m going to come see them every chance I have. It gives me a chance to get the pulse of morale over here.”
“It’s important that I’m here,” he stressed, “This is were I want to be. I feel pumped up when I see my Marines over here and I hope the same thing happens when they see me.”
Estrada and Scott visited various units throughout the airbase, letting Marines and Sailors know that they are proud of the work they are doing and that their efforts are not going unnoticed.
“Every opportunity I have, I brag about my Marines and what they are doing for our country,” Estrada said. “I am one of their biggest fans.”
“I want my Marines to know that I appreciate their sacrifices and the sacrifices of their family,” continued Estrada, “and to know that the vast majority of the citizens back home recognize and appreciate that too.”
Estrada and Scott agreed that, when combined, their two branches of service create a unified fighting force capable of accomplishing any mission.
“The Navy and Marine Corps team is the epitome of expeditionary warfare,” said Scott. “We can (take on the enemy) harder, faster, and better than anyone.”
“(The Navy) has been alongside us throughout our history,” added Estrada, “I appreciate their commitment to the Marine Corps.”
According to the sergeant major, the morale of the troops is extremely important to the success of the Marine Corps’ efforts in the Middle East.
“I care a lot about my Marines,” said Estrada. “I want to see what their concerns are, and I’m going to do everything I can to ensure that they are given the support they need to be successful.”
Following the sergeant major’s tour of the airbase here, several Marines expressed that having the enlisted leader of the Corps pay them a visit in a combat zone provided a much-needed boost to their morale.
“It was pretty motivating to have the sergeant major of Marine Corps take the time out of his busy schedule to come and talk to us,” said Sgt. Daryl W. Thomas Jr., radar technician, Marine Aircraft Control Squadron 1, Marine Aircraft Group 16, and 22 year-old native of Ft. Worth, Texas. “Most of us have families and don’t feel too comfortable being out here, but having encouragement from the sergeant major makes it that much easier.”
“It’s very inspiring and motivating to see the sergeant major,” agreed Cpl. Maria Medrano, supply clerk, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 11, 3rd MAW, and 21 year-old native of Earlimart Calif.,
Before departing Al Asad, the sergeant major provided his Marines with words of both encouragement and appreciation.
“Be safe, stay motivated, and remember, you are helping to maintain peace throughout the world,” pointed out Estrada. “You are heroes to your families, and to your country.”