MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Col. Pete Petronzio relinquished command of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit to Col. Robert G. Petit during a change of command ceremony here at W.T.P. Hill Field, Sept. 17.
Hundreds of family members and Marines gathered to watch the ceremony that included a formation of approximately 1,000 Marines set against a backdrop display of tactical vehicles, helicopters, tanks and weapons belonging to the 24th MEU.
Petronzio took command in May 2007, and has commanded the unit through two deployments on various missions that embodied the MEU concept of acting as a force in readiness.
In 2008, Petronzio deployed with 24th MEU to Afghanistan and lead them in an offensive against the Taliban in the Garmsir District of southern Helmand Province.
Petronzio deployed again from January through August 2010 aboard ships of the Nassau Amphibious Ready Group and participated in earthquake relief efforts during Operation Unified Response in Haiti, and executed numerous bilateral training exercises with partnered countries throughout the Middle East.
Maj. Gen. John A. Toolan, the commanding general of II Marine Expeditionary Force Forward, spoke during the ceremony about those historic accomplishments and Petronzio’s role as the MEU’s commander.
“Col. Petronzio and his Marines demonstrated what we’re now doing actively in Afghanistan every day,” Toolan said. “When that job was finished they came back, and got ready to deploy again. Then in January 2010 a terrible earthquake occurred…
"Col. Petronzio has been a great leader and somebody who has really made a difference and made a mark in MEU history,” he added.
Petronzio thanked all in attendance during the ceremony and gave a special thanks to the Marines and Sailors who served under his command.
“I’ve been blessed, I truly have,” said the Beverly, Mass., native. “A MEU is successful not because of its commander, it’s successful because of the 2,300 Marines and Sailors that are standing out there today, and you were magnificent every day of the week.”
Petit also gave a short speech during the ceremony thanking friends and family, and noting Petronzio’s achievements.
“Pete, you’ve made history with the 24th MEU and you need to be proud of it,” Petit said.
Petronzio’s next assignment will be at U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command. He is currently scheduled to retire sometime next year.
This will be Petit’s fourth time serving with a Marine Expeditionary Unit. The New Orleans-native deployed with a MEU as a lieutenant, captain, and as a battalion commander at the rank of lieutenant colonel.
The 24th MEU is one of three MEUs stationed at Camp Lejeune. MEUs act as a force in readiness able to respond to a variety of contingencies from natural catastrophes to full-scale combat operations. The unit is currently scheduled to deploy again in early 2012.