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thedrifter
04-17-09, 10:03 AM
Last modified Thursday, April 16, 2009 11:02 PM PDT
EXCLUSIVE: Camp Pendleton getting new boss

By MARK WALKER - Staff Writer

CAMP PENDLETON ---- Col. James Seaton, Camp Pendleton's base commander since 2006, is going to work for former Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus and will be succeeded by Col. Nicholas "Nick" F. Marano.

The change in command is planned for later this spring or early summer.

"It's been a fast three years," Seaton said Thursday. "We have had a lot of things that weren't foreseen, but when I look back I am proud that we have been able to improve the quality of life for the Marines and sailors and retirees we serve."

Seaton's command has been marked by a construction effort modernizing housing, utilities, medical and training facilities on the base.

"Forty percent of the infrastructure has been here since the 1940s and '50s," he said.

This year alone, the base is spending about $1 billion to upgrade its facilities.

For training facilities, Seaton has seen the creation of a mock village and a simulator that trains troops how to approach and search residential areas.

Seaton replaced Col. John C. Coleman as commander of the 125,000-acre base in May 2006.

Seaton had planned to retire from the Marine Corps, but last month was asked to interview with Petraeus to serve on the general's personal staff as director of the Commander's Initiative Group at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla.

About 10 days ago, Seaton got word that he had been selected for the post and is expected to report to Central Command in late July.

In that job, he will help with the general's speech-writing, congressional testimony, meetings with U.S. and foreign officials and strategic reviews.

"He has one of the most challenging jobs in the world so it's really an honor to be joining his staff," said Seaton, who has a master's degree in political science from Duke University.

Central Command is a multiservice group that oversees the central regions of the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

Petraeus, a distinguished Army officer, served as the commanding general of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq from January 2007 to September before assuming his current duties.

He then became head of U.S. Central Command, whose responsibilities include oversight of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Seaton first reported to Camp Pendleton in August 2001 for duty with the 1st Marine Division. He assumed command of the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, in June 2002 and led the battalion during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In June 2004, he transferred to Twentynine Palms for an assignment with the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command. Seaton was promoted to colonel in September 2004.

Marano is also a veteran of combat tours in Iraq and commanded a battalion from Twentynine Palms in Iraq in 2006.

The Philadelphia native is an infantry officer who is currently serving as the Marine Corps' operations chief for its Training and Education Command at Quantico, Va. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

He's served at Camp Pendleton during his career and is excited to be coming back to the base, Seaton said.

Contact staff writer Mark Walker at (760) 740-3529 or mlwalker@nctimes.com.

Ellie