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Change of command for Marines serving in Iraq and Afghanistan

In a ceremony with military traditions dating back centuries, a new Marine general took command Friday of Marines and sailors serving in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.


September 4, 2009 | 8:48 pm
Tony Perry, reporting from Camp Pendleton

Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. assumed command from Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland, who is retiring after 41 years of military service starting as an Army enlisted soldier during the Vietnam War.

Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway, in a statement read to several hundred Marines and visitors gathered for the change of command, praised Helland’s role in leading Marines to success “from the desert of Anbar (in Iraq) to the plains of the Helmand Valley" in Afghanistan.

Helland praised Marines and sailors who serve in war zones “in the hottest part of the day and the darkest part of the night.”

Dunford, with combat command experience in Iraq, also assumes the role of commanding general of Marine Corps Forces Central Command. Helland has held the two jobs for nearly two years.

In his farewell message to his troops, Helland reflected on the Marines and sailors killed and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan: “Their sacrifices will be long remembered by people everywhere whenever the words freedom, liberty and justice are spoken.”