Benedict leaving after two years on the job

The atmosphere was welcoming last week for a new leader aboard Camp Lejeune.

The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit change of command ceremony was held Sept. 3 at the base, formally recognizing the transfer of command from Col. Scott F. Benedict to Col. Ryan S. Rideout.

Benedict came to the 24th MEU in March 2013 and commanded the first full iteration of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response, as well as the MEU’s 2014-15 deployment.

“This is an important day for us, a change in command,” said Maj. Gen. William D. Beydler, commanding general, II Marine Expeditionary Force. “What we’re recognizing today is commandership over 30 months — 14 of those months have been foreign deployed representing U.S. National interests. Doing all of those things with a force that is ready, that has met standards. A force that we expect young men and women to make very good and important decisions day in and day out based on the Corps values we share: honor, courage and commitment.”

Benedict, who was given high praises by Beydler during the ceremony, said that although the focus is often on the incoming and outgoing command, the real focus should be on the Marines of the organization.

“Anything that anybody has said about me today is really the accomplishments of those Marines,” Benedict said. “It’s bittersweet because I enjoyed serving with them: having these adventures and serving the country. But I know they will continue to do it, they’ll do it with their new commander. So it’s time for me to move on to other things.”

Benedict says his next assignment is with Headquarters Marine Corps.

Rideout is coming from Joint Interagency Task Force-South where he served as the director for operations and as the Marine Corps Element commander.

“You are exceptionally well-prepared for this undertaking,” Beydler said to Rideout during the ceremony. “You have done everything you need to do up to this point in your career up to this point to excel. Fortunately, you’re taking over a great command.”

Rideout said he is excited to begin his time as the commanding officer of the 24th MEU, which combines about 2,200 Marines and sailors from Camp Lejeune, New River and Cherry Point in a rapid-response force that includes ground, air and logistics personnel.

“It’s incredible. It’s what you live for. It’s impressive to be around people like this, but it’s even more impressive when you’re given the opportunity to serve in a position of leadership with people like this,” said Rideout.

With a near 90 percent retention rate turnover in the command, Rideout said he is looking forward to building a team of his own.

“This is kind of what we all came in to do,” Rideout said. “You get to get out there on the front edge of what’s important to the nation and what’s important to the Marine Corps. I’m looking forward to training first and getting ready for all of that. These Marines recently got back from an incredible deployment. A lot will move on, but we’ll get some new folks in, and we’ll build our team. Then we’ll go out and do what all of the MEUs always do: go out and do the nation’s bidding.”

The MEU returned July 17 from a seven-month deployment to the U.S. Navy’s 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility where they supported contingency operations and took part in several security cooperation exercises. The MEU serves as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting a variety of missions from humanitarian assistance to full-scale combat. According to Camp Lejeune Public Affairs, they are scheduled to deploy again in 2017.

Karissa Blackburn is a reporter for the Jacksonville Daily News.