Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. --
Marines and sailors with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, bid farewell to Col. Eric Steidl and welcomed Col. James Christmas as the new commanding officer during a change-of-command ceremony at the 2nd Marine Logistics Group Amphitheater aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., June 28, 2012.
Steidl graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in Geological Oceanography and was later commissioned through the school’s NROTC program.
During Steidl’s time as commanding officer, the MEU deployed to the 5th and 6th fleet areas of responsibility from March 2011 to February 2012, the longest MEU deployment in recent history. Steidl’s next assignment will be director of Special Operations Training Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force.
“The length of deployment is really a footnote in history … The operational statistic that means the most is we came home with the same number of Marines and sailors we departed with,” said Steidl discussing the MEU’s recent ten and one half month deployment. “So Marines, it was the most humbling and rewarding experience of my life.”
Friends, families and colleagues attended the ceremony, including II Marine Expeditionary Force Commanding General Lt. Gen. John Paxton.
“We have called our MEU’s the ‘Crowned Jewel’ of the Marine Corps. They show the rest of the world that they are the most ready when the nation is least ready,” said Paxton. “Colonel Steidl and the MEU had a great pre-deployment training plan and a great work-up, and as our nation needed them, we pulled them out of that cycle 89 days early. We cut their training cycle almost in half and sent them over the horizon and they did exactly what they needed to do … you executed that flawlessly.”
Christmas, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who previously served as Deliberate Plans Branch Chief, with United States Special Operations Command said he is blessed with mentors and looking forward to serving as commanding officer.
“This is the most humbling time of my life,” said Christmas. He told his family to prepare for an adventurous tour with the 22nd MEU.
Christmas is a graduate of Elon College, where he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education. As an Infantry Officer, he served on several deployments to include Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. His previous commands include Recruiting Station New Orleans, LA. and 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.