AL ASAD, Iraq -- Lt. Gen. Dennis M. McCarthy, commanding general, Marine Forces Reserve, met with Marine reservists here Sept. 16 to evaluate reserve integration and demonstrate support.
"We want to meet with our activated reserve forces here to let them know that we are proud of them and to let them know that we will do whatever we can to continue to support them as best we can," said McCarthy during a face-to-face meeting with Combat Services Support Battalion 7, 1st Force Service Support Group, Marines. "You have helped turn this country around in a positive way and you have done an outstanding job.
"We are proud of you and your families back home are proud of you too," he emphasized.
During McCarthy's visit with CSSB-7, commanding officer, Lt. Col. Drew T. Doolin, informed the general that all of his Marines, including reservists, came to Iraq "with a sense of unity and purpose."
"This is a time of great challenges for our Marine Corps and our country," noted McCarthy. "It is also a perfect opportunity for reservists throughout the Corps to show what they can accomplish."
Continuing his visit, McCarthy met with more reserve Marines soon after his arrival, checking in with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing headquarters, several subordinate squadrons and the Marines of the 3rd MAW security battalion.
"It is nice to know that our commanding general took time out of his schedule to come here to Iraq just to listen to us and to let us know that he supports us and our families 100 percent," said 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Aaron Melendez, Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 48, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd MAW, and an activated reservist from East Chicago, Ind.
Discussing issues related to reserve employers and college students like Melendez, McCarthy said the support from employers has been "tremendous."
"Obviously when a Marine gets activated it has a more significant impact on a smaller company than with a large corporation like Home Depot, but over the last decade employers big and small have gone above and beyond to help our Marines during times of deployment," McCarthy said. "Even though by law an activated reservist cannot lose his job with his employer, it is very important for our Marines to let their employers know that their support and everything they do is greatly appreciated. They too need to know that their support is part of the solution."
McCarthy said MARFORRES is taking into consideration issues such as modifying retirement eligibility based on military service time, G.I. Bill-funded education benefits for reservists who have served 24 months active duty and the possible creation of a new reserve warrant officer program that opens military occupational specialties to more Marines.
Throughout his visit, the general demonstrated an eagerness to hear what Marines had to say. He entertained as many concerns as possible on a variety of reserve-specific and total-force issues.
In response to a question regarding Marine Corps training in the future, McCarthy said the Corps needs "more integrated training between active duty forces and the reserves, and opportunities to work together when it makes sense."
"The reserves are a localized force. We need more creative training ideas to bring us together more because, as Marines, we are also a national force," explained McCarthy.
McCarthy also expressed a firm grasp of the positive influence of reserve integration during combat operations.
"Today's reserve lance corporals and corporals in Iraq will soon become the hard charging, experienced sergeants and staff (noncommissioned officers) of tomorrow," said McCarthy. "Likewise, the lieutenants and captains will become highly-experienced officers using valuable lessons learned here during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"Taken together, the Marine Corps that we will have in the near future will be an awesome force indeed," he continued.
Leaving an impression on the Marines, McCarthy's message resonated with reservists in particular.
"His words were very positive and motivating," said 36-year-old Sgt. Tony Linnaberry, platoon sergeant, CSSB-7, 1st FSSG and an activated reservist from Rock Island, Ill., who left his job as a carpet installer to serve in Iraq. "Out here we are setting the tone for the future and making a big difference."