View Full Version : Navy dentist makes history with command

05-14-03, 11:37 AM
Article ran : 05/13/2003
Navy dentist makes history with command
A Navy dentist at Camp Lejeune made history when he was given command of 3,500 troops. He is the first naval officer to lead such a large Marine unit.

Capt. Stephen J. Connelly, 56, of Boston, commands 2nd Force Service Support Group troops that remained at Camp Lejeune after roughly 5,000 members, commanded by Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert, left for Kuwait in January.

"Thanks to (Brigadier) General Lehnert, I have my niche in Navy history," Connelly said.

Connelly leads eight battalions: 2nd Dental Battalion, 2nd Medical Battalion, 2nd Supply Battalion, 2nd Maintenance Battalion, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, 2nd Military Police Battalion, and Headquarters and Service Battalion.

In addition, Connelly has a busy legal schedule. He is the only person in the unit with nonjudicial punishment authority. Connelly will preside over the case of a Marine accused of sabotaging parachutes last September. The case is scheduled for court in July.

"It makes for an interesting day," he said.

Connelly commanded the Naval Dental Center and 2nd Dental Battalion at Camp Lejeune the last two years.

He graduated from dental school in 1972 and, after eight years in private practice, came into the Navy. Camp Lejeune was his first assignment.

In 1982, he started his 1 ??ars aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Nashville in Beirut.

During the early 1990s, he ran the dental department and, for a short time, was second in command of destroyer tender USS Shenandoah in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea.

Since then, Connelly ran the Branch Dental Clinic in Norfolk, Va., and was the executive officer of the Naval Dental Center Southwest with clinics throughout coastal California.

"Twenty-one years later, I'm back here at the job I really wanted on my third tour with the Marine Corps," Connelly said.

Occasionally he examines teeth, but he hasn't been able to do that since Christmas.

"The challenges have been manageable," Connelly said. "I'm primarily in health care delivery, so I operate outside of my comfort zone."

It was no accident he returned to eastern North Carolina with one tour before retirement. His family plans to settle along White Oak River in Carteret County in 2006.

"My wife, Elizabeth, was excited about coming to Camp Lejeune," Connelly said. "We're East Coast people, and I actively sought this job."

Now, Connelly must plan to combine forces as they return from Iraq.

"It really shows how closely Navy medicine is integrated in direct Marine Corps operational support," Connelly said. "We understand Marine concepts and doctrine and have the ability to operate within it. I don't think that you get too much more integrated than that."

Connelly serves on the Coastal Carolina Community College dental program advisory board and has 19 of his dental officers and 30 to 40 enlisted dental technicians deployed to Iraq.

Still, he can enjoy this moment.

"General Lehnert doesn't prepare too many historical documents, but he said that my fitness report would be one," Connelly joked. "I could retire now because it never gets any better than this."

Contact Eric Steinkopff at esteinkopff@jdnews.com or 353-1171, Ext. 236.