CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq. -- Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler took the helm of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force from Lt. Gen. James T. Conway at 9 a.m. during a Change of Command ceremony here.
The I MEF, home-based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., is comprised of approximately 30,000 Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen, who are currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“It’s very unusual for a staff to be able to create two ‘A’ teams,” said Sattler. “There is an ‘A’ team at Pendleton and when I first arrived at Pendleton I started to think, ‘Wow, they left all the talent back here, I wonder who’s forward fighting the war,’” said Sattler. “Now that I have arrived forward (Iraq), I realize that the talent pool is deep within this MEF.”
Sattler, who was also promoted to his present rank today, previously served as the Director of Operations, U.S. Central Command. Conway will assume duties as the Director of Operations, J-3, at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C.
The ceremony, traditionally practiced within the Marine Corps, is unique in the world today. It is a transfer of total responsibility, authority and accountability from one individual to another. The event was attended by approximately 300 guests. Highlighting the event was the Reviewing Officer, Lt. Gen. Wallace C. Gregson, Commander, U.S. Marine Forces Pacific; Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force; and Pacific Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Bases, Pacific.
“Optimized by the motto, ‘no greater friend, no worse enemy,’ the Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen assigned to this MEF exercise exceptional professionalism and discipline, separating the enemy from the friendly and the neutrals,” said Gregson. “They simultaneously are winning the hearts and minds of this country while ridding it of the bandits and terrorists.”
Gregson didn’t pass up the chance to add a little humor to the ceremony.
“Let me thank General Conway in the theme of the National Anthem for the rockets red glare at 0600 this morning,” said Gregson, referring to a round of indirect fire on Camp Fallujah this morning.
Sattler took an opportunity to speak on his views of Conway and expressed his thoughts about his new venture.
“The toughest thing you can do is replace a warrior, or attempt to replace a warrior, with the caliber of leadership of Lt. Gen. Conway,” said Sattler. “Gen. Conway, I accept the challenge and I promise to take care of your Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen.”
Lt. Gen. Conway was presented the Distinguished Service Medal by Lt. Gen. Gregson for combat operations against the government of Iraq, from Nov. 15, 2002 to April 24, 2003, signed by the Secretary of the Navy, for the President of the United States. His award cited that his leadership, guidance and personal drive were essential during meticulous planning and precise execution of combat operations in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lt. Gen. Conway assembled a Marine Expeditionary Force that numbered 90,000 U.S. and coalition military personnel and trained it to become one of the most lethal combat forces in the history of the United States Marine Corps.
Conway showed compassion and dedication to those who structured I MEF and expressed his wishes to Sattler.
“Generals must remain habitually with their men, have industrious intent to instruction and comfort, and in battle, lead them well. John, that’s my challenge to you today…lead them well in battle,” said Conway. “Take care of my Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen.”
Sattler spoke about the contribution and leadership he will devote to I MEF.
“I promise you we will continue to conduct counter-insurgency in operations with our Iraqi warrior friends and the Iraqi government officials,” said Sattler. “We will continue to turn the heat up on those thugs, criminals and terrorists who must use intimidation and murder to accomplish their goals because they can’t accomplish them legally.”