News: I MEF, MARCENT welcome new leaders
Story by Cpl. Jennifer Pirante
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser relinquished command of Marine Corps Forces Central Command and I Marine Expeditionary Force during a ceremony at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Sept. 7.
Among the many high-ranking officials present at the ceremony were Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos, and his wife Bonnie, as the forces welcomed their new leaders.
Lt. Gen. Robert B. Neller assumed command of MARCENT, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.
“I understand what you want me to do,” Neller said. “Your guidance when we met was very clear. I give you solemn word. I’ll commit myself solely and fully to that objective and we’ll get it done.”
MARCENT is made up of approximately 15,000 military personnel and operates in the Middle East, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf region.
“Under Gen. Neller’s watch, the intention is for this MARCENT staff out of Tampa to move into the region,” Waldhauser said. “That will happen in the next couple of years, we hope. At the end of the day, the reason we broke this up was to provide a three-star component commander for the combatant commander in that region and that has not gone unnoticed by our friends and allies in the region.”
Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan, Jr., assumed position as the commanding general of I MEF, which consists of approximately 57,000 military personnel spread throughout Camp Pendleton, Twentynine Palms and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. Approximately 8,000 Marines and sailors are still deployed to Afghanistan.
“I feel very blessed to be able to take this command,” Toolan said. “I think it is very important that as I take over this I MEF, that I follow the tradition that Tom Waldhauser has set. He set very high standards and the traditions are set. Now it’s just a matter of making sure that we follow through because it’s all about honoring the sacrifices of those men and those women that are on our wall back there.”
Waldhauser will proceed to Washington, D.C., and report as the senior military assistant to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
“Today is a very important day for the Marine Corps,” Waldhauser said. “By separating these two commands, the Marine Corps is making a commitment to rebalance our forces to the Pacific, while at the same time underscoring the fact that peace and stability in the Middle East remain within our national interest.”