MARINE BARRACKS WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps' 37th commandant accepted the battle colors Thursday morning with an emphatic "Let's go do this!"
In an address to fellow Marines, family, prominent politicians and foreign military representatives, Neller expressed gratitude for his selection and vowed to continue to stay on track with Dunford's recently issued guidance, yet hinted at unspecified changes.
"I support the plan, we're going to execute the plan, but we're going to need some slight deviations," he said.
Neller, an infantry officer, is the right person to carry the Marine Corps through the challenges ahead, said Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
MAGTF capabilities will be sharpened, he said, then globally deployed to deter adversaries, assure allies, and meeting the needs of the United States – whether disaster relief, reinforcing embassies or taking on risks to national security.
"That's what we do," Neller said. "We make Marines, we build teams, we fight and win. I understand that; it's pretty clear to me: I've seen it, and it's a beautiful thing."
Neller concluded his brief remarks by saying how humbled he was to accept these responsibilities.
"He has the energy and vision to take us into the future," Dunford said. "[His wife] Darcy and Gen. Neller will absolutely take care of our Marines, our sailors and their families. We couldn't be in better hands."
Reflecting on his brief tenure as commandant, Dunford invoked baseball great Lou Gehrig. When Gehrig prematurely left the New York Yankees, he didn't emphasize the fact he was taking off his pinstripes, but spoke about how fortunate he was to have been part of the team for 17 years.
Carter thanked Dunford and his wife, Ellyn, for their commitment to the Marine Corps. He cited testimony from several Marines who served under or alongside Dunford. During the early years of the Iraq War, one Marine said then-Col. Dunford would lead from the front during difficult times. Another recalled how Dunford refused armor inserts for his flak jacket until every Marine under his command had access to the same protective gear.
"He loves his men and he is loved by his men," Carter said. "...These Marines say more than any of us could about the character and leadership of this great man."
While his tenure as commandant was short, Carter said he and the president have bigger plans for the general.
"That's relevance, that's capability, and the results speak for themselves," he said.
Dunford also recalled sitting in Neller's seat barely one year ago. As he took over command from Gen. Jim Amos, Dunford said he was able to say with absolute confidence that the Marine Corps was in great shape.
"And I will tell you that nothing I have seen over the past year has given has given me any reason to doubt that your Corps is [still] in great shape," Dunford said.