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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, August 23, 2008

New commander for Marines

Photo gallery: Change of command

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Lt. Gen. John F. Goodman, left, stepped down as commander of Marine Forces Pacific yesterday at the Marine base in Kane'ohe.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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KANE'OHE BAY With a backdrop that included 540 Marines, artillery, two helicopters and fighting vehicles, Lt. Gen. John F. Goodman yesterday stepped down as commander of Marine Forces Pacific after three years at the post.

Lt. Gen. Keith J. Stalder was to take up the command of 84,000 Marines and sailors throughout the Pacific. But officials said Stalder's mother died Wednesday, and he returned to the Mainland.

His deputy commander, Brig. Gen. Rex McMillian, yesterday temporarily accepted responsibility for the largest field command in the Marine Corps until Stalder returns to Hawai'i.

Marine Forces Pacific, headquartered at Camp Smith, has two major subordinate commands: I Marine Expeditionary force headquartered in California and III Marine Expeditionary Force headquartered in Okinawa.

An air-ground logistics team of 6,800 Marines is located in Hawai'i.

Stalder, who was commanding general of II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C., has served as the commanding general, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, in Iraq, and as the commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade and deputy commanding general, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, in Operation Iraqi Freedom I.

Marine Commandant Gen. James T. Conway told several hundred people gathered yesterday on the flightline at Kane'ohe Bay that Stalder is a "warrior diplomat."

"His call sign is 'Shadow.' He's going to be in great company here with the aviators. He, too, is a fighter pilot," Conway said.

The Marine commandant said Stalder and his wife, Susan, "are going to make a tremendous command team here," but they have big shoes to fill with the departure of Goodman and his wife, Gayle.

"Whether it's the next rotation into Iraq or Afghanistan, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, real-time kind of world events, or just posturing our Corps to its best possible advantage, John and Gayle Goodman have done that in just an absolutely superb fashion," Conway said.

Goodman, 63, is retiring, but will take a job with the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance on O'ahu, officials said.

Goodman noted the Marines in formation behind him yesterday.

"They have been carrying the fight to our enemies around the world," Goodman said. "I'm here to honor them."

Goodman started out in the Army in 1967 and in 1969 played professional football with the New Orleans Saints prior to entering the Marine Corps in 1971.

The only time Goodman seemed to get emotional was when he described coming home from the Vietnam War. He had been part of a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol and recalled one mission in Cambodia observing the Ho Chi Minh trail.

Goodman said he was called a "baby killer" in a restaurant back in the United States.

"You know, that was pretty tough to take," Goodman said. "We're in another war and our Marines are doing God's work for our country, and you know, I have to give our society a pretty high grade. You don't hear (baby killer) anymore, and that's important."

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.