Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. -- More than 100 people gathered at the base theater Nov. 3 for the promotion ceremony of Brig. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer, commanding general, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, to the rank of major general.
Fellow Marines, community leaders, friends and family members filled the theater seats as Zilmer took the stage alongside Maj. Gen. Samuel T. Helland, commanding general, 3rd Marine Air Wing, who administered Zilmer’s oath of office.
Prior to frocking Zilmer to his current rank, Helland took time to address the guests present and express his gratitude and well wishes.
“It’s a great honor for me to be here today,” said Helland. “I have never promoted a general officer before, so this is pretty exciting for me. Here is a leader of Marines who has commanded at every level and has a great reputation who is noted as a great leader of Marines.”
“Soon he will have about 25,000 Marines under his command,” said Helland. “And I have no doubt that he will do extremely well.”
After the reading of orders, Zilmer’s new rank insignia were delivered to family members on stage. George Sterega, Zilmer’s father-in-law and a retired master gunnery sergeant, along with Zilmer’s youngest son Travis, 13, pinned on his pairs of stars. Two of Zilmer’s four children were unable to attend the ceremony.
Zilmer was given his personal two-star distinguishing flag and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Band performed “Ruffles and Flourishes” and “General’s March” for his first honors as a major general.
With the ceremonial portion complete, Zilmer addressed those who took the time and traveled from across the country to be part of the promotion ceremony, especially some of his personal heroes in the audience.
“Out here today are Jack Storm and Don Chappell from the Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania,” said Zilmer, a former student. “Anyone who has been in my office has seen my big jar of Hershey’s chocolates, and going to the school was a real turning point in my life. It’s a school that brought us together, taught us core values and taught us to be young men.”
Zilmer went on to thank many Marine Corps and community leaders who have been so supportive of him during his life and time aboard the Combat Center.
“I’ve had a great pleasure of having some former chiefs of staff, legends in the Marines Corps, who have made their counsel available to me on numerous occasions and have been great supporters, great advisors and great friends most importantly,” said Zilmer.
“This is larger than just my promotion, and it allows me a chance to express my thanks to everyone for the past year-and-a-half here,” said Zilmer. “Twentynine Palms is a very special place. My wife Lorie and our family have absolutely loved and treasured every moment that we’ve had here at Twentynine Palms.”
Zilmer also credited the Marines of the Tactical Training and Exercise Control Group, who oversee the Mojave Viper exercise, for their role in training Marines and Sailors for the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Wrapping his speech up with a tribute to his wife and family, invited guests were welcomed to attend a reception at the Officer’s Club.
Lorie Zilmer, whose beaming smile was seen throughout most of the evening, said she was touched by the support of all who attended the ceremony and reception.
“I was very overwhelmed by the amount of people that showed up for Rick today,” she said. “I was also very honored that some of those people drove from so far away just to be here, actually a few came thousands of miles. It’s almost mind-boggling to see the amount of people that truly share their happiness for us.”
“I will always tell people that we’ve had two really great tours; the first was England, and the second was here,” said Lorie. “Unfortunately, we’ve been pulled out of them both early.”
Upon arriving aboard the Combat Center, Lorie said that she, her husband and family were unsure of what to expect.
“We set a goal to enjoy our time here and that is exactly what has happened; we’ve had a blast,” she said. “We love Twentynine Palms and will be sad to go.”
“What makes it so great are the people here, they really are who they are and are true to their word,” Lorie continued. “Not only that, but they are all very knowledgeable and love the Marines and the Marines’ families. And that is what it is all about for living in a great community.”
Zilmer is slated to take command in Iraq as deputy commanding general, I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), in coming months.