Naval officer takes on Marine unit

13 May 2003 |

In a unique turn of events, a naval officer became the first sailor to command a segment of a Marine unit here earlier this year due to deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Navy Capt. Stephen J. Connelly took command of nearly 3,300 personnel remaining here with 2nd Force Service Support Group (rear) while maintaining his established position as commanding officer of 2nd Dental Battalion, 2nd FSSG.

The Boston native is filling in for Brigadier Gen. Michael R. Lehnert, commanding general, 2nd FSSG, who is currently forward deployed as the commanding general for Marine Logistics Command in the Arabian Gulf region. 

"In terms of commanding Marines, I am privileged, and am flattered that Brigadier General Lehnert thought of me for the position," said Connelly.

No stranger to the unit, Connelly first served with 2nd FSSG in 1980 as a dental officer with 22nd Dental Company, 2nd Dental Battalion, just after being commissioned.

He later served as a dental officer aboard the USS Nashville in 1982 when he supported civilian evacuation and amphibious landing operations in Beirut, Lebanon, and as the dental department head aboard the USS Shenandoah in 1993 when he participated in operations in the Arabian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea, among other assignments. 

With past experience in the unit and a number of command-level billets under his belt, Connelly understands the leadership role and mission of 2nd FSSG.

"My job is to define our mission, provide vision, accomplish goals and set priorities for Marines," said Connelly. 

The mission of 2nd FSSG is not a small task, he said. The unit provides the major sources of heavy combat service support for the 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, and the command element of II Marine Expeditionary Force. The support is essential for successful combat operations and includes the combat service support functions of supply, maintenance, transportation, engineering, landing support, health services and other special services, he said.

Connelly said he credits his ability to command both 2nd FSSG (rear) and 2nd Dental Battalion to the service members at both commands.

"I have an excellent staff at both places and it makes doing both jobs easier," said Connelly. "I am able to delegate with confidence."

Navy Lt. Dawn M. Hardin, director for administration, 2nd Dental Battalion, said it came as no surprise to her that Connelly was selected for the job.

"His breadth of knowledge across the spectrum makes him a great choice," said Hardin. "He is a fair commander who takes all variables into a situation before making a decision."  

Though Connelly feels capable of juggling both commands, he does express wishes for Brig. Gen. Lehnert and those deployed with him.

"The sooner the general, the chief of staff, Marines and sailors return safely, the happier I will be," said Connelly.