Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visits Marines, sailors at MCAS - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visits Marines, sailors at MCAS Miramar

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with Marines and sailors Tuesday at MCAS Miramar.

Hagel held a town hall there as part of his farewell tour. One by one, Hagel met with about 300 Marines, presenting each one with his special coin.

The Marines were humbled and honored that the man at the helm of the Pentagon came here to San Diego to express his thanks.

"It's an honor to get to talk to him and meet him today," a Marine said.

Sergeant Chad Larkin is from Hagel's hometown of North Platte, Nebraska, a state Hagel used to represent as a Republican U.S. senator.

"The fact he's taking the time to come here and visit troops really shows how much he cares," Larkin said.

Unscripted and speaking conversationally, with a town hall feel, Secretary Hagel addressed the Marines for about 45 minutes.

"I thank all of you for what you do for our country, and thank your families. Particularly I want you to pass on to your families how much we appreciate their sacrifice and how important they are, not only to you and all of us and this country," he said.

Hagel's visit to MCAS Miramar is part of a three-day farewell tour. He talked about the shifting climate in an uncertain, dangerous world, with the high threat of ISIS and Islamic terrorism.

"It's a world that presents very little margin for error, little margin for anything, especially time," he said. "When these disasters hit, challenges hit, they're immediately deadly," he said.

He encouraged the Marines to be strong leaders, continue their education and to be good role models for the next generation.

A former enlisted soldier who served in Vietnam, Hagel has been well liked by combat troops during his two years as defense secretary. He was asked for his advice to his successor.

"Listen, listen, listen. Listen carefully, to not just your commanders," he said.

Hagel says he has a private lunch once a month with junior enlisted from all branches of the military.

"He seems like a down to earth guy, which is nice, and surprising. Especially with his military experience behind him. It's really good to get your eyes on the guy who leads you," a Marine said.

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