Esper at Marine Corps Commandant Passage of Command Ceremony

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Acting Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper speaks at the Marine Corps commandant passage of command ceremony at Marine Barracks Washington., July 11, 2019. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller is passing command to Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger.


Ladies has been the acting secretary of defense, the honorable Mark T. Esper.

Well, good morning everyone. It is my distinct pleasure to be here today for this very special ceremony as we honor General Bob Neller’s extraordinary service and install General Dave Berger as the next commandant of the Marine Corp. Welcome to all of our distinguished members of Congress who have joined us here as well as the many representatives from our ally and partner nations who are in attendance and a special welcome to life long marine and medal of honor recipient Colonel Harvey Barnum.

I also want to recognize General Neller’s wife, Darcy, who has supported Bob throughout his long and distinguished service, along with her three children, Bret, Claire, and Kurt. We know that our military families also serve and we recognize your great contributions to Bob’s exceptional achievements. So, thank you very much.

And to General Berger’s family, his wife donna and his four son’s Joseph, Ryan, Jeffery, and Philip, your service continues as we pass the torch from one exceptional leader to another. Thank you for your unwavering support to Dave and your adoring commitment to the nation.

I also want to recognize all of our Marines in attendance today. The U.S Marine Corp. Embodies military readiness at its best and I thank you for your discipline, your sacrifice, and your service to our great country. Thank you.

And as always you look fantastic. For General Neller, today marks the combination of an incredible career that spans over four decades of service. He has risen to the highest point within the Corp and his humble beginnings reflect the uniqueness of the meritocracy that is the American military and the Marine Corp in particular. When once asked why he joined the Marines, General Neller’s reply was simply, “I needed a job. Intending to get married and short on money a stint in the Marine Corps seemed like a great opportunity.” Little did Bob know, he would soon discover he was born, born to lead Marines. General Neller’s path brought these past 44 years of service has take him through Somalia, Panama, Belgium, Bosnia, Iraq, and Washington DC to name a few places. And Bob you have to tell me sometime which combat post was the toughest. At each stop along the way, he excelled in his duties. A proven combat veteran, he has commanded at every level and through his direct and personal leadership style he always, always took care of his Marines. As commandant, General Neller led the service though a critical inflection point that transitioned the Corp. Its focus from the counter and certainty operations that have dominated the past 18 years to a renewed emphasis on high intensity conflict against great power competitors. He spear-headed efforts to modernize how the Marine Corp organizes, trains, and equips for future conflict. Ensuring the men and women of the Corp are prepared to fight and succeed on the battlefield. And this he continues the Marine’s tradition of constantly striving for self improvement. As a trusted advisor on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Neller is known for his passion for accomplishing the mission and his candor in providing military advice. Never one to shy away from the toughest issues, he could always be counted on to advocate for the men and women of the Corp and for the Joint Force. He is endeared as a Marine’s Marine. Beloved by subordinates who will proudly follow him into any battle. General Neller, we owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude for your leadership which will resinate in the Corp long after you depart. Throughout your story career, you’ve shaped generations of Marines who will benefit your service for many, many years to come. As you and Darcy head for Texas and well-deserved time with your grandchildren know that your legacy will endure in a more capable U.S Marine Corp and stronger department and a safer nation. Thank you.

As you retire this post, rest assured the Marine Corp is in great hands as you pass the helm to a strong, supremely qualified leader. As the commanding General of the Marine Corp combat development command and the deputy commandant for combat development and integration, General Dave Berger has demonstrated his exceptional talent and foresight for the future. In this renewed era of great power competition, I can think of no better leader to assume the duties of commandant. General Berger understands well the challenges we face in today’s complex strategic environment. His work to help shape the way we train and equip our Marine’s for future battles makes him the perfect fit for this position. He is a visionary who is committed to marching the Marine Corp down the path to modernizing for future warfare. As General Berger has proven through his career, he possesses the intellect, the stamina, and the courage needed to succeed in this demanding position. Dave as you take the reigns know that we have the upmost confidence in your abilities. I have no doubt that you will excel here just as you have done throughout your exceptional career. Thank you continued service. We look forward to the Marine Corps continued success under your command. In closing, I want to thank our Marine’s for what they do each and every day to keep our great country safe. Throughout all corners of the world Marines are standing watch at all hours of the day under the most difficult conditions. When America needs a job done well, she can continue to count on the few and the proud to accomplish the mission. Thank you all for being here today. Semper fi. May God bless the Marine Corp, the United States military, and our great nation. Thank you.

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