MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Thunderstorms sent service members, families and Department of Defense civilians sprinting for shelter just moments before Col. Richard P. Flatau Jr., relinquished command of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune to Col. Daniel J. Lecce, June 25.
The change-of-command ceremony originally started outside at W.P.T. Hill Field aboard the base until bolts of lightning and booming thunderclaps sent the crowd to the Paradise Point Officers’ Club.
But the severe thunderstorms did not subside and moments before the indoor ceremony began, the O’Club lost power. This did not, however, deter the commanders and their guests from accomplishing the mission.
After enjoying a candle-light dinner of hors d’oeuvres and desserts, Flatau and Lecce stood side-by-side as Maj. Gen. Carl B. Jensen, commanding general of Marine Corps Installations East, addressed the two leaders.
“You invested (yourself) in this command at the cellular level,” Jensen said to Flatau. “I have never met anyone as assiduous as you. You knocked it out of the park and left a legacy behind.”
After a firm handshake and wishes for the best, Flatau and Lecce changed places, signifying the end of Flatau’s two-and-a-half year reign and the beginning of Lecce’s new endeavor.
“Welcome aboard,” Jensen said to Lecce. “We are glad to have you.”
Flatau, who is also retiring from the Marine Corps after 27 years of active-duty service, received the Legion of Merit medal for his exceptional meritorious conduct in performing outstanding services and achievements. President Barack Obama and Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, wrote Flatau letters of appreciation, thanking him for his many accomplishments and service to the Marine Corps.
Flatau said it was an honor to serve with the Camp Lejeune community and thanked many people, including his wife and four children, who made his journey to the top possible.
“It’s more than I could have dreamed of and I couldn’t have been more grateful,” said Flatau. “Marcia, thank you and I love you. (Kids), thank you for letting daddy be a Marine.”
Lecce, who most recently served as the staff judge advocate for 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., thanked his family, close colleagues, personnel he served with at the Joint Law Center aboard MCAS Cherry Point and service members who he deployed with in the past.
Lecce said he looked forward to the new challenge and responsibility of upholding Camp Lejeune’s strong reputation.
“I appreciate fully the opportunity to command the base and I promise to give 110 percent,” said Lecce. “We’re going to continue to make this the finest Marine Corps base in the country and in the world – that’s my goal.”
Staff Sgt. Brandi Falcon, the administrative law chief at the Joint Law Center, MCAS Cherry Point, has worked for Lecce both on the homefront and last year’s deployment to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq with II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), where Lecce served as the SJA to Maj. Gen. Richard T. Tryon, currently commanding general of 2nd Marine Division. Falcon said Lecce was an outstanding leader and had full confidence he would do a great job as commanding officer of MCB Camp Lejeune.
“He is an awesome leader,” said Falcon. “He has the leadership traits we speak of in the Marine Corps, and I have not seen him weak in any of them. He’s very hands-on. He’s interested in Marines (personally), professionally, career-wise … You know he will take care of you or whoever that person happens to be, and that is just an awesome thing. He follows up with you and follows up on the things that he expects from you as well. He sets the bar high, but he also performs to his own level of expectation.”