Turning his back to the hundreds gathered Tuesday inside Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island's All-Weather Training Facility, Brig. Gen. (Sel.) Frederick Padilla made a simple promise to the Marines and sailors now under his command.
"What's been started and sustained here over time will continue," Padilla said. "I will take care of you and look out for you."
Padilla, 50, took hold of Parris Island's battle colors Tuesday during a change-of-command ceremony at the base, making him the depot's new commanding general. Padilla replaces Brig. Gen. James B. Laster, who took command of Parris Island in May 2008 and will report later this month to Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler in Okinawa, Japan. Laster will now serve as the commanding general of 3rd Marine Division.
Coming to the Lowcountry after serving as the chief of staff for Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Va., Padilla described commanding Parris Island as something of a dream job.
"There is no place else I'd rather serve," he said. "It took me 27 years to get to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island ... and now I'm here. What we do as Marines is we make Marines and we win our nation's battles. It all begins here, and nobody does it better."
Parris Island also will be Padilla's first duty station as one of the Corps' general officers. Confirmed by the Senate for the rank of brigadier general, Padilla will become a one-star general next week.
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 based at Parris Island.
Recruiting and training would-be Marines is only a small part of what makes the work done at Parris Island so important, Laster said in his farewell remarks.
"This institution, this depot ... more than just contributes to our Corps and to our national defense; we contribute to our entire nation," Laster said.
Acknowledging the attendance of several local officials, Laster said he and his family are sad to leave the Beaufort area.
"We have come to cherish this community," he said of his family's 14-month stay in the Lowcountry. "We have never be so warmly welcome as we have been in the Beaufort area. This community will always hold a very warm place in our heart."