Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford took over as the 36th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps Friday in a ceremony at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. taking command from Gen. James Amos.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus were in attendance as the first ever pilot to lead the Marine Corps stepped down and accepted his retirement orders before Dunford, who recently led U.S. forces in Afghanistan, took over the leadership post.
"A change of command is always a bitter sweet event, mixing the achievement of what has been with the promise of what is to come. Today we say god speed to one great Commandant while we welcome a new Commandant," Mabus said.
As a former naval aviator who commanded the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing during OIF, Amos spent time flying the F-4 Phantom and F/A-18 Hornet where he served on board the USS Roosevelt aircraft carrier.
Amos was the first pilot to become Marine Corps Commandant.
Hagel presented Amos with the Distinguished Service Medal. The medal citation credited Amos for exceptional service regarding efforts to shepherd the Marines through the challenges of sequestration and wind down of ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
However, his command was not without controversy. Amos was investigated and cleared of wrong doing after he was accused of unlawfully influencing an investigation into the video released in 2012 of three Marines urinating on Taliban corpses.
During Amos' tenure as commandant, the Corps began to work on transitioning from a largely land-based force fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan back to a more expeditionary Corps interested in returning to its maritime roots. Part of this includes the Pentagon's Pacific rebalance which, among other things, rotates Marine units through Darwin, Australia.
"Under Jim's (Amos) leadership the Marines established an innovative rotation in Australia. Gen. Amos has also helped the Marines revitalize their amphibious and expeditionary roles," Hagel said.
Amos oversaw efforts to further integrate women into the Corps and implement the end of
"Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy regarding gays in the military, he added.
Dunford takes over as commandant at a time when budgets are increasingly pressured while global threats and demand for Marines appear on the rise.
Dunford recently served as the commander of the International Security Assistance Force, United States Forces – Afghanistan and also spent time as the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. First commissioned in 1977, his military career includes numerous leadership positions in the Corps such as time leading combat units during the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Dunford praised Amos' service and credited Marines now in Afghanistan and those responding to the Ebola crisis.
"We're providing relevant capabilities to combatant commanders," he said.
Dunford also published to a letter to Marines upon assuming command.
"I am truly honored and humbled to serve as your Commandant. I'd like to begin my tenure by thanking General and Mrs. Amos for their four decades of extraordinary service and commitment. They transition to the next phase of their lives with the admiration, appreciation, and affection of all Marines and their families," Dunford said.
The new commandant also spent time as the director of the Operations division of the Plans, Policies and Operations staff, Headquarters Marine Corps and also functioned as the executive assistant to the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In 2008, he became vice director for Operations, Joint Staff.
"We remain forward deployed and forward engaged in the Pacific, South America, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Just in the last year, we have responded to crisis in the Philippines, South Sudan, Libya, and Iraq," Dunford added.
He concluded his remarks by emphasizing humility and pledging to take care of Marines and their families.
"My focus in the coming years will be to take care of our Marines and their families," Dunford said.
-- Kris Osborn can be reached at email@example.com