Thousands gather for ‘Follow Me’ Division change of command

23 Aug 2012 | Cpl. Marco Mancha 2nd Marine Division

More than 5,000 Marines and sailors came together during a change of command ceremony in which Commanding General of 2nd Marine Division Maj. Gen. John A. Toolan, relinquished command to Brig. Gen. James W. Lukeman.

The change of command ceremony is a time-honored tradition formally restating the continuity of authority to the officers and personnel of the command.  The formal ritual brought together every unit within 2nd Marine Division in a mass formation spanning the length of more than four football fields.

“You don’t see formations like this anymore, anywhere,” said Toolan, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y.  “It’s important that everyone visually see it and it’s important that people come and recognize the Marines and sailors of the division.”

Toolan assumed his position as the commanding general in July 2010 and later deployed as the commanding general of II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) to Helmand province, Afghanistan for duties as commanding general of Regional Command Southwest.

“During my time in Afghanistan, I really got to observe how well Marines can conduct counterinsurgency operations and how effective they are in working closely with other countries’ security forces,” said Toolan.

During the ceremony, Toolan handed the unit colors in typical Marine Corps fashion to Lukeman, representing a transfer of total authority, responsibility and accountability from one Marine to another. 

The sound of cannons fired into the cloudy summer skies as honors were presented to the commanding general of 2nd Marine Division.  A biennial event as large as this simply reinforces why so many Marines, including Lukeman, are so enthused to be a part of such a celebrated unit of Marines.

“My wife and I are thrilled to be coming back to the 2nd Marine Division,” said Lukeman of Beaufort, S.C.  “It’s a great honor and privilege to take command and to be part of the division again.”

2011 was an eventful year for the “Follow Me” division, with a constant rotation of at least three battalions deployed to Afghanistan at any given moment.  Now, with a new division sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Bryan K. Zickefoose of Omaha, Neb., and all but one unit returned from Afghanistan, Lukeman looks to the future of the division with just a few simple goals in mind.

“My goals are simple and that is to provide the Marines and sailors of 2nd Marine Division with the best training, best equipment, and best leadership that I can, so that they can continue to do what they need to do and continue to be the finest fighting force in the world,” said Lukeman.

Before the pass in review and conclusion of the ceremony, one Marine was awarded a Silver Star Medal and another a Bronze Star with combat distinguishing device. 

Corporal Jason M. Hassinger  of Philadelphia was award the Silver Star Medal for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving as a fire team leader for 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  Staff Sgt. Matthew E. Faircloth of Martinsburg, W.V. was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for heroic achievement with 2/8, in connection with combat operations against the enemy in Helmand province, Afghanistan.