MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The two men gazed solemnly at each other, one holding the Marine Corps flag as the other stood silent and still. As the one holding the flag extended it, the other took it swiftly, stalling for just a moment to return the gaze.
For the Marines and sailors of 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, standing in formation at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field on the cool morning of Sept. 25, this simple act meant they would bid farewell to their former commander, Lt. Col. Scott G. Fosdal, and would welcome Lt. Col. Todd P. Simmons as their new leader.
Friends, family and fellow Marines and sailors gathered under the shade of the parade bleachers to bid farewell to Fosdal, who has received orders to the College of Naval Warfare in Newport, R.I.
Fosdal, a native of Rockdale, Wis., has been described by his fellow officers as a man who leads his Marines with pride, devotion and loyalty – the same traits displayed on the 1/7 seal.
“Lt. Col. Fosdal’s leadership was an inspiration to every Marine in the battalion,” said 1st Lt. Brian Sawyer, the battalion’s communications officer. “We would follow him anywhere.”
Capt. Aaron Norwood, 1/7’s logistics officer, received a clamor of agreements from fellow officers when he summed up Fosdal’s leadership by saying, “he is the wind beneath my wings.”
In his speech and later at the unit reception, Fosdal described how much he appreciated the work of his fellow warriors.
“Words cannot begin to sum up my appreciation, level of gratitude, and the amount of respect I have for this battalion’s discipline and capabilities,” he said. “These Marines are capable of anything if you explain it to them, train them and step away. They will take care of it. One of the things that makes this battalion so successful is we have such professional staff. This battalion essentially ran itself.”
Simmons, who previously relieved Fosdal at Camp Schwab in Okinawa, Japan, as the executive officer of 4th Marine Regiment, followed Fosdal’s speech by expressing his gratitude for the opportunity to lead the battalion.
“Marines,” he said facing the formations behind him, “I am humbled to serve in this battalion. 1/7 is an amazing unit with an incredible history and I look forward to joining the team.”
Fosdal said he believes Simmons has just what the battalion needs to continue accomplishing missions here and abroad.
“He should be used to cleaning up my messes by now,” Fosdal joked. “He is certainly qualified and has the right leadership style to be compatible with the battalion’s capabilities. It’s a very mature and level-headed style.”
Simmons, a native of Watervliet, N.Y., said he has learned much from fellow commanders and junior Marines alike.
“You can really trust them,” Simmons said of enlisted Marines. “They always come through for you.”
As for fellow officers, Simmons said he learned from them to “be selfless and always do what’s right. Our business is about public service, about always doing the right thing and about taking care of each other as Marines.”
He said he also feels as honored as Fosdal to take command of a unit with such a lustrous combat history.
“You look at some of the names in 1/7 history like John Basilone, and you see why 1/7 has some of the most amazing history in the Marine Corps,” he said. “To think that is the kind of legacy we need to carry on is very humbling.”
After the ceremony, both Simmons and Fosdal brought their families to the reception at the Combat Center’s Officers’ Club to mingle, greet and bid farewell to the rest of the unit.
Simmons said the battalion will continue to train for future deployments to Afghanistan.