Recruit Depot, Recruiting Region to get new commanding general

For the second time in a little more than a year, the 5,000 Marines and civilian employees of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island will wish fair winds and following seas to their commanding general.

Brig. Gen. James B. Laster, 52, will step down Aug. 4 as the depot's commanding officer during a ceremony inside Parris Island's All-Weather Training Facility. He will relinquish the post to Brig. Gen. (Select) Frederick M. Padilla.

Laster will report to Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler in Okinawa, Japan, where he will serve as commanding general of the infantry Marines of the 3rd Marine Division, according to Maj. Gabrielle Chapin, spokeswoman for Parris Island. He is expected to report to Okinawa in late August.

Laster assumed command of the depot in May 2008 after serving as the commanding general of Marine Corps Training and Education Command in Quantico, Va.

Having led Parris Island and the Corps' Eastern Recruit Region for a little more than a year -- a short stint relative to the three-year stay of his predecessor, Maj. Gen. Paul Lefebvre -- Laster will be remembered on base as a strong-willed but reasonable leader, said Col. James Becker, the depot's operations officer.

"One of Brig. Gen. Laster's defining qualities is his calm, decisive decision-making when faced with an emergency," Becker said. "When Hurricane Hanna threatened to flood Parris Island last year, Brig. Gen. Laster's positive leadership and genuine concern for his people were instrumental in guiding our staff through a stressful, uncertain challenge."

The base was evacuated for Hanna when it appeared the storm was headed toward Beaufort County. The storm later made landfall farther up the coast at Myrtle Beach and had little effect on Beaufort County.

Col. Andrew Solgere, commanding officer of the depot's Recruit Training Regiment, said Laster was a hands-off kind of boss.

"In the 24/7 risky recruit training environment, accomplishing the mission each day is tough enough," Solgere said. "If your commander hovers over you and demands to know everything that is going on, people tend to withdraw and display less initiative. The trust and confidence displayed by (Laster) allowed the Recruit Training Regiment to accomplish the mission to the Marine Corps' standards."

Padilla, 50, comes to the Lowcountry after serving a year as the chief of staff of the Marine Corps Combat Develop Command in Quantico, Va. He was tapped in April to be promoted from colonel to general but has yet to be pinned, according to the Corps. Padilla's promotion must be approved by Congress, which authorizes all promotions for general and flag officers.

Padilla arrives at Parris Island with various command posts under his belt, including three years as commanding officer of the School of Infantry-West at Camp Pendleton, Calif., according to his Marine Corps biography.

In addition to being in charge of the depot, Padilla will oversee the work of every Marine recruiter east of the Mississippi River as commanding general of the Eastern Recruiting Region, a command also headquartered at Parris Island.