One of the Marine Corps’ rapid-response forces welcomed its new commanding officer this week, bidding farewell to the Marine who led them for three years.
On Wednesday, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted a small change of command ceremony, welcoming Col. Rob Fulford as the new MEU commander. The outgoing commander, Col. Matthew St. Clair, spent 36 months leading the MEU. He will next serve as the commanding officer of the Marine Corps’ Experimental Integrated Ground Combat Element, a unit currently being established aboard Camp Lejeune that will further study the integration of female Marines into combat arms specialties.
“On this day and with a heavy heart, I bid fair winds and following seas to the Marines and sailors of the 26th MEU,” St. Clair wrote on the unit’s official Facebook page. “… Simply put, they are my heroes and their spirit lives in my soul. I am forever grateful for all the support provided by the family and friends of the MEU and I can’t emphasize enough how critical you are to the MEU’s mission readiness.”
St. Clair continued his post welcoming Fulford into the MEU’s “family” and wished him continued success in his career.
St. Clair is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and was trained as an infantry officer after being commissioned in 1989. He has served in multiple command roles throughout his career and has been decorated with a Bronze Star, the Defense Superior Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medals, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals and the Combat Action Ribbon.
According to the Marine Corps’ official website, Fulford served most recently as a senior aide to the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps before assuming command of the MEU. Fulford’s assignment to the 26th MEU is not his first assignment with a MEU. During 2009, he served as the commanding officer for 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, which was the 22nd MEU’s battalion landing team.
The MEU includes about 2,400 Marines and sailors from Camp Lejeune, New River and Cherry Point operating off amphibious ships. The unit combines mobile ground forces, air assets and logistical personnel that can respond quickly to any crisis.
Thomas Brennan is a reporter for the Daily News in Jacksonville.