Col. Chris Pappas III had a one-year tour at Cherry Point in 1997, but on Thursday, he returned to become commanding officer of the Marine Corps air station.
“A lot has changed in 15 years,” Pappas said. “What hasn’t changed is the sense of hospitality of the community.”
With the passing of a flag, a salute and a handshake, Pappas officially took command from Col. Philip Zimmerman during the traditional change-of-command ceremony in front of the headquarters building at Cherry Point.
“I have very, very huge shoes to fill here at Cherry Point,” Pappas said in remarks during the ceremony, which featured music by the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band, presentation of colors and pass in review of Marines in the command.
Pappas takes over a base that serves as the East Coast point of embarkation, where more than 35 tons of military equipment was shipped overseas to help in the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last three years under Zimmerman’s command.
“Getting the chance to command during a time of war is a privilege, and I don’t take that lightly,” Pappas said.
Pappas thanked his wife Alisa and children Chris IV, Gracen Elizabeth and Vivian Logan, as well as retired generals and base commanders who attended the ceremony. He also made a point to thank community leaders who attended.
“We could not do what we do without the local community,” Pappas said. “Thanks for wrapping your arms around us.”
Zimmerman’s next assignment will be as officer in charge of Marine Corps Activities in Guam where he will help coordinate movement of forces.
“You’re going to do a great job,” he told Pappas in his remarks during the ceremony. “I will sleep easier in Guam.”
Zimmerman thanked his family as well as the community and retired officers for support during his three years as base commander. He also invited everyone to visit him in Guam.
“It’s just a short eight-hour flight from Hawaii,” he joked. “You should be able to get that done over a weekend.”
In his 26-year Marine Corps career, Zimmerman spent five tours at Cherry Point, including his last as base commander.
“The first four tours, it’s not a good idea to be walking around saying ‘what is the base commander thinking,’” Zimmerman joked.
Zimmerman mentioned some of the odd events that occurred in his three years as base commander, such as when a bear wandered into a building at Fleet Readiness Center East and when a train derailed at the entrance to the base, blocking Fontana Boulevard in Havelock. Still, he said he could not have done the job without the support of his staff and the Marines under his command.
“It’s been a truly special job, and I’ve enjoyed it,” he said.
During the ceremony, Zimmerman received the Legion of Merit for exceptional and meritorious conduct during his three years commanding the base.
“We’re in the warfighting business,” said Brig. Gen. Robert F. Castellvi, commanding general of Marine Corps Installations East. “That is always going to be job one of every installation commander, and nobody did it better than Zimmy over his last three-year tenure here.”
Castellvi said that like Zimmerman and other commanders, Pappas understands that command is about the accomplishment of the unit.
“I’m very much looking forward to working with you,” he told Pappas.
For a photo gallery from Thursday's ceremony, click here: http://portal.havenews.com/photogallery/?CatID=16&AlbumID=2131