Camp Lejeune, N.C. --
The Marines and sailors of the 2nd Dental Battalion, Naval Dental Center welcomed a new commanding officer and wished fair winds and following seas to their old boss after a change of command ceremony held here, July 29.
Navy Capt. Francisco R. Leal relinquished command of the battalion to Capt. Rodney L. Gunning, at the Marston Pavilion during a traditional ritual that serves as visible evidence of the continuity of command and of the orderly transfer of responsibility and accountability from one commander to another.
Leal, from Chicago, commissioned in to the Navy as a lieutenant in 1990 after graduating from the University of Illinois College of Dentistry with a Doctor of Dental Science. He has served throughout various units attached to both the Navy and Marine Corps, notably volunteering to deploy with the dental detachment of Bravo Surgical Company, I Marine Expeditionary Force in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
Brig. Gen. Edward D. Banta, the commanding general of 2nd Marine Logistics Group and guest of honor at the ceremony, noted the hardest thing about a change of command ceremony is saying goodbye to the outgoing commander.
“You don’t find better people than the Leals,” he said. “I’m not just talking about the phenomenal dental readiness rate … It’s really about your leadership. It’s what you’ve done for your sailors, developing your junior leaders, the petty officers and junior officers and making them the future leaders of the Navy and Marine Corps.”
Leal thanked those in attendance for their support and guidance throughout his time in command and highlighted the unit’s accomplishments during his tenure. One of his proudest moments in command, he said, was in organizing and improving the dental facilities aboard Camp Lejeune. One of the biggest clinics that needed improvements during his tour is responsible for providing dental care to the Marines and sailors of the 2nd Marine Division.
“Those warriors deserve the best they can get from us,” he commented.
Leal is moving to Washington, D.C. to take on an assignment in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Medical Resources, Plans and Policies Division. His new job will focus on improving and implementing military health support for stability operations.
Navy Capt. Rodney L. Gunning, a Tipton, Ind., native took command of the battalion after serving as the executive officer of 3rd Dental Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group. According to his biography, he was responsible for humanitarian missions and clinics in Okinawa and Iwakuni, Japan, as well as Kanehoe Bay, Hawaii.
“He has spent more time with the Marine Corps than he has with the Navy,” said Banta, referring to Gunning. “He’s no stranger to the 2nd Dental Battalion and the 2nd MLG.”
Gunning was commissioned as an ensign in the Navy during his sophomore year in dental school at the Indiana University School of Dentistry. He has served as a dental officer with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, participating in operations in Kuwait and the Persian Gulf, and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom with 2nd Supply Battalion, 2nd MLG.
Before his assignment in Japan, Gunning served at the senior dental officer responsible for providing care to the Navy’s 5th Fleet, based out of Bahrain.
Despite his various other assignments, though, he said, “I can’t think of a better honor than serving with the Marine expeditionary force and Marine logistics group here aboard Camp Lejeune.”