New commander takes charge of Marine Corps bases across the Pacific
By CARLOS M. VAZQUEZ II | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 29, 2019
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, Okinawa — Marine Brig. Gen. William Bowers has assumed command of Marine Corps Installations Pacific, a far-flung organization responsible for operating bases in Hawaii, Japan, South Korea and, soon, Guam.
Bowers took over for Maj. Gen. Paul Rock Jr., who has commanded since June 27, 2017, during a ceremony Friday in a hangar on one of the island’s most strategically important but controversial air bases in the Pacific.
“It is with great confidence that I hand the bow that is Marine Corps Installations Pacific to you,” Rock told Bowers during the change-of-command ceremony, “and I know that you will work to keep pulling that bow harder… to launch the [Marine Expeditionary Force] arrow that much farther.”
Marine Corps Installations Pacific has approximately 11,000 Marines, sailors and civilians who work for the command across Japan, including MCAS Futenma and several camps on Okinawa and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and the Combined Arms Training Center at Camp Fuji on the main island of Honshu; in South Korea at Camp Mujuk; and at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
Marine Corps Base Guam is undergoing an $8.7 billion upgrade in anticipation of 4,000 Okinawa-based Marines moving there in the mid-2020s.
Under Rock’s command, the U.S. military returned a 10.56-acre strip of Futenma to the Japanese government in 2017. The base has been unpopular with some locals in the densely populated neighborhoods surrounding it due to aircraft noise and motor vehicle traffic.
Also within his tenure, Rock dismissed two subordinates: Col. Mark Coppess from MCAS Futenma in June 5, 2018, and Lt. Col. Nathaniel “Lips” Baker from Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, both due to a loss of trust and confidence in their abilities.
The incoming commander is no stranger to holding his subordinate commanders accountable as well. Bowers on June 19 relieved Col. William Blanchard as commander of Marines assigned to the Army’s Fort Leavenworth in Kansas due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command.
He was also an investigator in a case that led to the firing in April 2018 of Brig. Gen. Kurt Stein as director of Marine and Family Programs after Stein dismissed reports of sexual harassment within his command as “fake news,” according to a Marine Corps internal investigation obtained and reported by USA Today.
Bowers arrives on Okinawa after serving as commanding general of Marine Corps Education Command and president of Marine Corps University, headquartered in Quantico, Va.
“Team, I promise to do my very best, give you my very best — 100% every day — to accomplish this vital mission to our country,” Bowers said during the ceremony upon taking command.
Rock will remain in Okinawa, where he will serve as commander of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and deputy commanding general of 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force.