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thedrifter
01-24-06, 08:14 AM
Colonel takes helm at Camp Lejeune
January 24,2006
BY CHRIS MAZZOLINI
DAILY NEWS STAFF

The command at Camp Lejeune now has a new look - and gender.

On Monday, Col. Adele Hodges - Lejeune's first female commander - took the base's colors and all its responsibilities to mark the beginning of a new era for Camp Lejeune.

"Most people came because they really wanted to know if it was true," Hodges said to the crowd assembled at Goettge Memorial Field House.

"It is true: I am ? short."

The Marine of 27 years and a native of Bridgeport, Conn., Hodges said she is honored to be the first female commander. Yet she pledges to be only a Marine leading Marines, despite the attention she's received.

"I'm a low-key person," she said. "It's history in the making, I'll just have to go with the flow."

Hodges assumes command as the largest Marine base on the Atlantic seaboard settles into its place as part of Marine Corps Installations East, a new command structure that is designed to streamline resources.

In fact, that's why Hodges, a colonel, is taking command in the first place. Maj. Gen. Robert Dickerson, the commander of MCI East and former Lejeune commanding general, now runs seven bases, including Lejeune and New River Air Station. Each of the subordinate bases is commanded by a colonel.

Although that command stood up in October, Monday's ceremony marked another step in its development. Dickerson was officially relieved of his duties as Lejeune commander.

"This is a unique ceremony today as no one's leaving," Dickerson said. "We're just shuffling plates around a bit."

Dickerson, who assumed command of Lejeune in August 2003, had nothing but praise for the base and the community at large.

"When you get assigned to Camp Lejeune and you can't get up every morning with a smile on your face, there's some problems," Dickerson said. "This community is magnificent. They take care of you - they open their hearts and their pocketbooks.

"Those moments when you don't know what's going on, they will help you out," he told Hodges.

Dickerson described Hodges as a Marine who earned everything she has received and was well qualified for the task ahead.

"She's been biting at the bit for the last 45 days to get me out of here," Dickerson said.

Besides the usual creases when a new boss arrives, Hodges said she is confident that things will run smoothly. Hodges said her main priorities are to continue to foster a relationship with the local community and ensure all base personnel know she has their back.

"They have my 110 percent," she said. "I am here to support them.

"(Major General Dickerson always asked me) 'Adele, are you ready for this?' " she said. "Sir, I'd like to say I'm ready for this, and I got it."