Lt. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck Jr., right, passes the III Marine Expeditionary Force organizational colors to Lt. Gen. John E. Wissler during the III MEF change of command ceremony on July 19 on Camp Foster. (Sgt. Brian A. Marion/Marine Corps)
The general who oversaw the Corps’ renewal of the unit deployment program, the arrival of the first Osprey squadron in Japan and a major humanitarian assistance mission following a deadly tsunami relinquished command of III Marine Expeditionary Force, marking the dawn of a new era for Marines based on Okinawa.
Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck, commanding general of III MEF since January 2011, passed the torch to Lt. Gen. John Wissler in a change of command ceremony aboard Camp Foster, Japan, on Friday, according to a Marine Corps news release.
Glueck oversaw the return of the UDP, an essential piece of the Marine Corps’ rebalancing in the Pacific. Battalions and squadrons rotate into Japan on six-month deployments to provide more forces for III MEF. As the Marine Corps has withdrawn forces from Afghanistan, the number of units going to Okinawa and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni has been on the rise.
During his time in Japan, Glueck also oversaw the startup of rotations to Darwin, Australia, designed to enhance interoperability with the country. Known as Marine Rotational Force Darwin, it began with company-sized rotations of about 200 Marines, but is expected to increase to more than 1,000 next summer.
Glueck worked hard to remind Marines that they must serve as good ambassadors to their host country. In the fall, he responded to local concerns about problems with sexual assault with an all-hands reflection brief, encouraging sailors and Marines to take seriously their relationships with Japanese people.
He also oversaw the controversial arrival of the first MV-22B Osprey aircraft on Okinawa amid local opposition to the tilt-rotor aircraft over safety concerns. A second squadron is slated to arrive there this month, which Glueck helped orchestrate.
During Friday’s change of command ceremony, Glueck called his time as III MEF’s commanding general the most rewarding of his career, according to the news release.
“There is nothing better than being forward-stationed, forward-deployed, at the tip of the spear, a premier force in readiness — and having to actually show it and demonstrate it on a daily basis ... that is truly rewarding,” he said.
Replacing Glueck will be the Marine who oversaw the service’s budget during one of the most challenging times in the Corps’ history. Wissler served as deputy commandant for programs and resources in Washington, D.C.
Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Mike Barrett attended the change of command ceremony. Amos touted Wissler’s leadership during the budgetary crisis as proof that he’ll be an effective commanding general of III MEF, according to the news release.
“As the deputy commandant for programs and resources, your efforts overseeing, developing and justifying the Marine Corps’ budget requirements were crucial during a marked period of financial distress for our nation,” Amos said. “Your experience and leadership will be invaluable to the Marines and sailors of III MEF.”
Wissler served previously on Okinawa as executive officer of Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, according to his official bio. He also deployed twice with the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit, now re-designated the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
He assured the Marines and sailors attending the ceremony that they’ll be mission-ready, partner-enabled and responsive to any regional crisis, according to the release.
Glueck will now serve as deputy commandant for combat development and integration; commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command and Marine Corps National Capital Region Command; and commander of Marine Corps Forces Strategic Command and U.S. Marine Corps Forces National Capital Region.