Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
Maj. Gen. David H. Berger took charge of the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, after relieving Brig. Gen. George W. Smith Jr., during a change of command ceremony Jan. 11, at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field.
In the 18 months as commanding general, Smith oversaw pivotal changes and modernizations in both the training and installation missions and capabilities of the Combat Center. His leadership led to the extensive construction and modernization efforts aboard the installation, including the construction and renovation of five bachelor enlisted quarters, a new family housing neighborhood and the renovation of recreational and family centers that support Combat Center families and staff.
“This is a special place,” said Smith. “I didn’t know how special it was until I took command and started moving about the Combat Center. It’s a special place well beyond many unique capabilities and training opportunities that present [themselves] here. It’s a special place because of the people. Because of this, I would call it a unique land of uniformed and civilian staff that accomplishes the mission each and every day.”
Five platoons of Marines from Headquarters Battalion, Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One, Marine Corps Logistics Operations Group and Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group marched onto the field as the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing band played. Each platoon represented the five commands that make up MAGTFTC. They were followed by Smith and Berger who took their places in front of the hundreds of attendees.
Fifty state flags and six territorial flags whipped in the wind as rifles cracked from the rifle manual on the field. Distinguished guests, families and friends watched the exchange of the MAGTFTC colors, symbolizing the passage of command from one general to another.
Berger, now Commanding General of the 28,000 person installation, took time to address the crowd and recognize the efforts put forth under Smith’s command and spoke about his future plans at the Combat Center.
Berger last served as the Commanding General of 1st Marine Division (Forward) in Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. He was responsible for the day-to-day ground combat operations across Afghanistan's Helmand province.
“It’s an honor to serve with the ‘Blue Diamond’ again,” said Berger. “I look forward to working with everybody here. This is kind of coming back home for me. Although I’ve never lived here, I feel like I have because I’ve trained in it my entire career. I’m very blessed to be here.”
Before leaving the field that day, Smith took a moment to address the Combat Center and his parents for their support.
“I’d like to take a minute just to recognize my parents [retired] Maj. Gen. and Mrs. George W. Smith,” said Smith. “I’ve been very fortunate to have my parents at a number of changes of command. Kathleen and I and our entire family have been really blessed to spend the last 18 months in close proximity to them. It’s really been a blessing to our entire family.”
Smith will next serve as deputy commander, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) for security force assistance and will deploy to Afghanistan in late January.