'Follow Me' division changes hands

30 Jun 2003 | Cpl. Ryan S. Scranton

Maj. Gen. John F. Sattler relinquished command of 2nd Marine Division to Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Johnson during a change of command ceremony at the 2nd Force Service Support Group Amphitheater June 30.

Maj. Gen. Sattler assumed command in July 2001 of the more than 16,000 division Marines and sailors, and has kept them engaged in training and operations around the world throughout his tenure.

In September 2001 the commandant of the Marine Corps announced plans to activate the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Antiterrorism) as a response force to react to acts of domestic and international terrorism. The 4th MEB (AT) activated with a Chemical, Biological Incident Response Force and the need for an antiterrorism battalion. Maj. Gen. Sattler's 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment and 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment answered the call to meet those needs.

Maj. Gen. Sattler's Marines made their mark in history in December 2001 when 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment functioned as the ground combat element for the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and entered the compound housing the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. The nearly 80 Marines involved were the first to do so since the embassy's closure in January 1989.

The division again answered the call to duty to assist in the global war on terrorism in early 2002. Marines from 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to assist in providing security for detainees from the war.

Despite the full plate of real-world contingencies, the division commander also maintained readiness by maintain a robust training schedule.  He sent Marines from the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 2nd Marine Regiment, to train in Twentynine Palms, Calif., during Combined Arms Exercise 9-02 in July 2002. During the exercise the two battalions increased their war-fighting prowess in a desert combat environment. This training proved invaluable when the two battalions, along with Marines from 8th and 10th Marine Regiments, joined 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. 2nd MEB later supported I Marine Expeditionary Force and functioned as Task Force Tarawa during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Task Force Tarawa liberated four of Iraq's largest cities -- An Nasiriyah, Al Amarah, Ad Diwaniyah, and Al Kut -- and 16 smaller cities having populations larger than 10,000.

With the focus on keeping terrorists at bay, the division's headquarters began planning and preparing to form the nucleus of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa in mid-September 2002. The next month Sattler assumed command of CJTF-HOA, whose mission was to disrupt and defeat international terrorist groups posing an imminent threat to coalition partners in the African region.

"The staff of CJTF-HOA worked in a region two-thirds the size of the United States to find terrorists, keep them off balance, never let them rest, and bring them to justice through either arrest or defeat in a military action," said Maj. Gen. Sattler.

With the threat of war in Iraq looming, some of Maj. Gen. Sattler's Marines from 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, five other battalions from the division, and 10th Marine Regiment augmented the I Marine Expeditionary Force. 2nd LAR Marines and others fought side-by-side with the Marines from I MEF and spearheaded some of the first ground operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The former division commander said his proudest moment with the 2nd Marine Division was when elements of the 2nd Marine Division fought side-by-side with elements of the 1st Marine Division and I MEF during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Maj. Gen. Sattler said he felt like "a proud father watching his sons or daughters doing something extraordinary, knowing that you couldn't be there with them, but that they were trained well and could accomplish the mission."

The newly assigned "Follow Me" division commander is poised and ready to lead the 2nd Marine Division into the future.

"I am prepared and eager to contribute to the success of the Carolina Marine Air Ground Task Force," said Maj. Gen. Johnson during the ceremony.

Maj. Gen. Johnson is no stranger to the 2nd Marine Division, having served as the executive officer for 2nd Marine Regiment and the assistant chief of staff for operations, 2nd Marine Division.

"Having been assigned to the 2nd Marine Division twice before, I am looking forward to being back with the team," said Maj. Gen. Johnson. "The war-fighting spirit that has been demonstrated by the division will continue to win the war on terrorism."  

Maj. Gen. Sattler will assume duties as the deputy commander, Marine Corps Forces Central Command, while Maj. Gen. Johnson is coming from his position as director, Manpower Plans and Policy Division, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps.