By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii, March 25, 2007 - Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave coins, and his wife, Lynne Pace, gave hugs as the two wished 340 Marines and sailors Godspeed as they deployed to Iraq from Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
Pace and his wife rushed from their plane, which had just touched down after a 10-hour flight from China, to speak with Marines and corpsmen of the 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, before they emplaned. They left today, heading for Kuwait via Minneapolis and Germany.
"I couldn't not come to say hello to you," Pace said to the troops. "I had to come over and wish you good luck."
The 12th Marines is an artillery unit, but the troops will train Iraqi police, provide convoy security and conduct other security missions in Iraq's Anbar province. The Marines and sailors will be deployed to Anbar for seven months.
Pace told the troops that there are a "lot of good things happening in Anbar province, but a lot of bad things, too." He thanked the Marines and sailors for their service to the nation.
Joining the Paces in giving, a full send-off were Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman, and his wife Cindy, as well as Navy Adm. Tim Keating, the new commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, and his wife Wandalee.
The arrival of all the brass was a bit of a surprise to the Marines and sailors, but they quickly got into the swing of things. The Marines were surprised and pleased to see the highest-ranking Marine general.
"It's great that the general and his lady came by to see us off," said Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Rivera, a radio operator.
Capt. Jim Beal, the commander of Charlie Battery, 1-12th, said the visit let the troops know that they are being appreciated.
"We're all pretty jazzed about meeting the general," Beal said. "We're ready for our time in Iraq, and this makes us understand the support we have at home."
Lance Cpl. Michael Green was very pleased with receiving the Chairman's coin.
"Guess we're going to win the coin contest at every bar," Green said to a friend. When Marines go out together they carry the coins they have received. Someone yells "coin" and the Marines slap them on the bar. The one with the coin from the highest-ranking general wins.
The visit was facilitated by Vicky Smith, the chief of protocol here. Her son-in-law, Lance Cpl. Brad Cain, is one of the deploying Marines. Smith saw the schedule of both groups and contacted a special agent who passed the request along to Pace aboard the aircraft.
"There were a lot of things that could have gone wrong - the general's plane could have been late, the Marines' plane could have left early, but it all worked out," Smith said.
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