USS IWO JIMA, At Sea (NNS) -- A Marine Corps icon and popular actor visited Sailors and Marines of the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26 MEU) Dec. 8.
The visit from retired Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey was part of "Gunny's Goodwill Tour" to the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR) to distribute gifts, sign autographs and visit with Sailors and Marines.
Ermey, a Marine turned actor, became a Marine Corps icon after his role as drill instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Stanley Kubrick's film, "Full Metal Jacket" in 1987.
Ermey served in the Marine Corps for 11 years. He spent two years as a drill instructor at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, and Parris Island, S.C. from 1965 to 1967. In 1968, Ermey arrived in Vietnam where he served for 14 months. He then served two tours of duty in Okinawa, Japan, during which time he rose to the rank of staff sergeant and was medically retired in 1972 for several injuries incurred during his tours.
On May 17, 2002 Ermey received a promotion to gunnery sergeant from the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James L. Jones, becoming the first retired military member in the history of the U.S. Marine Corps to be promoted.
Ermey's visit to Iwo Jima began with an all hands call in the hangar bay. After a short speech, Ermey passed out ball caps and T-shirts to Sailors and Marines.
"I think the visit really boosted the morale of the troops throughout Iwo Jima," said Cpl. Patrick Johnson-Campbell, a 26 MEU Marine. "Having a visit like this breaks up the monotony of being at sea for so long."
Ermey even held his own "mail call" and passed out a few packages. Afterward, he toured Iwo Jima and visited different spaces around the ship to meet the Sailors and Marines.
"It was awesome that he came out here to show his support to us," said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Richard Kisling. "No one walked away without a smile on their face."
Ermey tries to fly out to the 5th Fleet AOR at least once a year to visit with U.S. service members. "Gunny's Goodwill Tour" was sponsored by Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) and Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
"Gunny wished to convey his holiday greetings and wishes to all U.S. military in the AOR," said James Shipp, CNIC forward deployed forces program manager, Bahrain. "He was very pleased and happy to be out on the tour."
During his tour to the 5th Fleet AOR, Ermey also visited Baghdad's Camp Victory in Iraq, Camp Moreell in Kuwait, the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), and mine warfare ships USS Dextrous (MCM 13) and USS Scout (MCM 8).
The Iwo Jima ESG is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Operations to conduct maritime security operations (MSO). MSO helps develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complements the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.
For more news from Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group, visit www.navy.mil/local/iwoesg/.