Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks to Marines and sailors during a visit to Patrol Base Jaker in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
NAWA, Afghanistan (Dec. 17, 2009) – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited Patrol Base Jaker here today to tour the base and the Nawa district center and spend time with Marines and sailors assigned here.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen accompanied Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, commanding general of 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade Afghanistan, and Marine Corps Lt. Col. Matt Baker, commander of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, on a tour of the district's downtown market area just outside the patrol base.
The group walked the streets with only a security team and without body armor.
While in the market, Mullen spoke with Nawa district residents about their security and needs. He also spoke with Adbul Manaf, the district governor, about the changes brought to the area by Marines since the arrival of 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, in July.
"One of the reasons [for my visit] is to see and recognize the improvement and change which has happened here since the Marines came into this area," Mullen said. "I was here within two weeks of when the Marines came in here initially, so it's very easy for me to observe where we were then to where we are now."
Manaf told Mullen how happy he is having Marines in Nawa since their arrival months ago, and added that he hopes they can find a way to stay longer in Afghanistan to maintain Nawa's security.
"The plan for all of us is to transition security to the local forces," Mullen said, reinforcing President Barack Obama's 2011 plans for U.S. forces to leave Afghanistan. "I am confident the Afghan national security forces will be able to do this job. I can fully understand the governor's elation [with our presence] because of the changes here.
"He's so excited about the positive changes, and it makes sense he would want us to stay, but when that security prevails when we leave, he will still be happy," he continued. "To be able to walk through places like this, I see how it has literally turned over from an insurgent stronghold to a town that is open and violence-free."
Mullen returned to Jaker and spent a few moments with Marines and sailors there. He explained how their seven months serving here in harm's way will pave the way for the security of the region, and that he fully understands this sacrifice can be harder during the holidays.
"It's great to be able to come out here and see you," Mullen told the platoon assembled before him. "I've been around Marines my entire career, and I can tell you I'm very proud of the work you're doing right now."
The chairman answered questions from the platoon, and then shook each servicemember's hand and presented them his personalized challenge coins before departing.
"It was great to see him come out here," said Marine Corps Sgt. Khristopher L. Privitar, a police mentoring team section leader. "We hear about celebrities coming out to bigger camps, but they're not really in harm's way. I think it's great for us to see the senior officer in the military out at our level, where the troops are fighting here in Helmand province."
"It's good for the Marines' morale,” the Universal City, Texas, native continued, and we could all see he really cares about how we're doing and what we need out here. He made sure we all got his coin, and that made it special for us. We'll all be able to look back on the day Admiral Mullen came to see us in Nawa."