Top Marines talk ‘family readiness’

Lt. Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, Marine Forces Europe commanding general, and Lt. Gen. John M. Paxton, Marine Forces Africa,  commanding general, spoke to more than 50 Marine spouses from the Stuttgart military community during a Family Readiness town hall meeting held in the Panzer Chapel Jan. 11.

Brig. Gen. Charles Chiarotti, the Marine Forces Europe/Africa, deputy commanding general, opened the forum by thanking all attendees, to include more than 20 members of the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart community leadership.

Hejlik, who spoke candidly and from the heart, addressed various Marine Corps issues to include the downsizing of active and reserve components, and the importance of education.

“By educating our Marines, both officers and enlisted, we are going to have a better Marine Corps. The better educated we are, the better we take care of our family,” Hejlik said. He should know.

Hejlik, who rose from the ranks as a private to a three-star general in his 40 years of service, accepted an honorable discharge in 1972 to pursue an education and returned to the Corps in 1975 as a second lieutenant.

Paxton, who also heads the Family Readiness Committee for the Marine Corps, talked about the history of the Family Readiness Program, available services and the impact of financial restraints.

“The days of ‘if the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one’ are over. While the Marine Corps Community Service program faces cutbacks, Family Readiness and the [Family Readiness officer] programs are here to stay,” said the 37-year veteran and II Marine Expeditionary Force commanding general.

He also discussed the morphing of mass communication into the new “E-Marine” website as the way forward. E-Marine, at, was created in early 2011 as a secure website for Marines and spouses to receive up-to-date information on community and command events, and local resources. The MFE/MFA E-Marine page is scheduled to debut Jan. 26.

Following the information briefings, the forum was opened for a question and answer session with MFE/MFA and USAG Stuttgart leaders. The discussed topics ranged from the future of tuition and transition assistance, pensions, to health care, the welfare of junior Marines, and the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

During the town hall meeting, Kathleen Cole, deputy to the garrison commander and daughter of a former Marine colonel, stressed the importance of community and teamwork.

“Don’t be shy about using all our resources and ‘talking purple’,” said Cole, referring to the joint service environment within the Stuttgart military community.

Town hall organizers were quite satisfied with the results.

“Having this many spouses in one place with the commanders was a huge step forward for our Marine Corps family,” said Kathy Nelson, the MFE/MFA family readiness officer and event organizer, who is also responsible for every Marine family within U.S. European and Africa Commands, and Special Operations Commands Africa and Europe.

“With more than 300 Marine families spread throughout the greater Stuttgart area, as well as Europe and Africa, opportunities to meet like this can be hard to come by,” Nelson said.

“It was wonderful to see all the spouses together. It was a great turn out from all the Marine commands,” said Joan Chiarotti, wife of the MFE/MFA deputy commanding general. “A lot of great information was shared and best of all, many new friendships were made.”

Hejlik closed the forum by covering the word “Marine” on his name tape with his hand as he asked “What does this leave you with?

“It leaves you with U.S. or ‘us.’ Same thing for the Army, Air Force and Navy uniforms. After all is said and done, like a family, it is all about, ‘one team, one fight’!”