U.S. General Makes Big Impact on ChristmasDecember 26, 2010 - 2:30 PM | by: Rick Leventhal
When you travel with the Commandant of the Marine Corp, you never wait long for a ride and you’re pretty much guaranteed you won’t get bumped from your seat.
The tough part is, despite his 64 years, General James Amos has incredible energy and never seems to stop moving. You have no choice but to keep up.
This trip to Afghanistan has been a whirlwind tour of Forward Operating Bases and Combat Outposts in every section of Helmand Province. The Marines area of operation is roughly 10,000 square miles, about the size of Massachusetts, and we’ve been crisscrossing it for days, in valleys, stretches of desert, mountains and alongside lakes and rivers.
By our estimate, the General has met, spoken to, answered questions from and posed for pictures with roughly 12,000 of the 20,000 Marines on duty in Afghanistan, and he’s not done yet.
We’ve ridden in convoys of Humvees, SUV’s, vans and huge armored vehicles known as MRAP’s, but mostly we’ve traveled by air, which is fitting since the General is the first aviator to helm the Corp (he started as a fighter pilot, became a squadron leader and much later learned to fly helicopters, too.)
In just the past five days we’ve flown at least 21 times; in a small jet, several large C-130 cargo planes, Blackhawk helicopters and V-22 Ospreys.
The Ospreys have tilt rotors allowing them to take off and land much faster and at stiffer angles than traditional helicopters. As the rotors tilt the Osprey climbs almost straight up into the sky like an E-ticket ride at a Disney theme park. For one of the trips I rode in the cockpit on a jumpseat between the pilots.
The General says he came to Afghanistan for Christmas because he wanted to thank his troops and pay tribute to their service and sacrifice, especially meaningful during the holidays. His visit seems to be making a significant impact. The Marines seem genuinely impressed that their boss left his own family and traveled so far to see them and spend quality time with them. Some are clearly nervous when speaking to him; others seem to relish the opportunity.
The General invited me to sit next to him for Christmas Dinner at one base known as Fiddler’s Green, home to an artillery battery from 1st Battalion 10th Marines. As we ate our turkey, ham and stuffing, a young Corporal with a big grin seated across from Gen. Amos piped up.
“Of all the Joint Chiefs, which one is the funniest, the class clown?”
We all laughed including the General, who then turned to me with a smile and said, “This is off the record! I better not hear this on Fox News or you’ll be looking for another ride home!”
Since I protect my sources and don’t have another way back to the States from here, his answer will remain classified.