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    Marine general caps a 41-year career at Camp Lejeune

    Marine general caps a 41-year career at Camp Lejeune

    Photo By Chief Warrant Officer Bobbie Curtis | Lt. Gen. Samuel T. Helland and his wife Pam wave farewell to friends and family who...... read more read more



    Story by Cpl. Bobbie Curtis 

    II Marine Expeditionary Force   

    CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Capping off a military career that spanned more than 41 years, Lt. Gen. Samuel T. Helland retired from the Marine Corps Oct. 16, 2009, at the II Marine Expeditionary Force's headquarters building aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C.

    The mid-morning ceremony was held amongst Helland's friends, family and some of Camp Lejeune's senior leaders including Lt. Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, commanding general, II MEF.

    Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, was Helland's retiring official and used his remarks to reflect on Helland's distinguished military career.

    "It is fitting that he chose a field uniform for the ceremony," said Conway, looking over the platoons of armed ceremonial Marines clad in desert Marine pattern uniforms. "He is a field Marine. He has gone to war.

    "First in Vietnam — then he volunteered for service in Operations Desert Shield and Storm, and then he led tens of thousands of Marines in this ongoing War on Terrorism."

    During a ceremony at Camp Pendleton, Calif., in September, Helland relinquished command of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command and I MEF to Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. This capstone assignment marked the end of a career that began with a combat tour in Vietnam with the U.S. Army.

    After earning his degree from the University of Minnesota, Helland was commissioned a Marine officer and became a Naval aviator, piloting CH-53 heavy transport helicopters. Over the next three decades, Helland steadily rose in rank and responsibility.

    Conway attributed Helland's success to "getting out of the cockpit" and constantly taking on new assignments and responsibility.

    "That's how you succeed in our Corps," Conway remarked. "You take whatever position you're assigned and you excel at it."

    In addition to aviation assignments, Helland has served with a number of ground units and joint task forces, and commanded the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit during two deployments in the mid-1990s. His senior staff assignments included tours with Marine Forces South, Headquarters Marine Corps, and as the commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Joint tours saw Helland serve as the deputy commander for Joint Task Force Shining Hope in Albania and as the commanding general of Combined JTF Horn of Africa in Djibouti.

    He assumed his last posting with I MEF and Marine Corps Forces Central Command in November 2007.

    "It's unusual for a commander on the West Coast to retire on the East Coast," added Conway, "but you made the right call."

    Having the ceremony at Camp Lejeune vice Camp Pendleton gave more of Helland's family the opportunity to attend the ceremony, and it was to them that Helland attributed his success.

    "Today isn't about me, it's about family," Helland said about his wife and relatives. "They put up with my shenanigans ... they put up with my deployments. They endured ... they took care of me."

    Helland said the most important part of his successful career was support from his two families — the first being his biological and extended family, and the second the Marines and Sailors with whom he served over the years.

    "It's been my honor to serve with you men and women ... I thank them for their dedication," he said.

    He recognized his wife, children and father-in-law before moving on to point out others in the office such as the man who enlisted in the Army with him and the officer that taught him to fly more than 35 years earlier.

    After a pass in review by elements representing II MEF's major subordinate commands, Helland and his wife strode to the II MEF flag pole where he rang the bell and waved goodbye to the ceremony attendees — his last act in a uniform.



    Date Taken: 10.22.2009
    Date Posted: 10.22.2009 13:12
    Story ID: 40518
    Location: CAMP LEJEUNE, NC, US 

    Web Views: 2,479
    Downloads: 557