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Marines Call Up S.D. Lawyer to Take Camp Pendleton Helm

TIMES STAFF WRITER

San Diego lawyer Michael I. Neil, a brigadier general in the Marine Corps Reserves and a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, has been called to active duty, and on Friday will take command of Camp Pendleton, the Marines said Wednesday.

Neil, 50, will take over for Lt. Gen. Walter Boomer, who became Camp Pendleton’s new commander a month ago but was almost immediately sent to command the Marine force in the Middle East.

A prominent San Diego attorney, Neil said Wednesday that he has been at Camp Pendleton “on a regular basis” over the past year to learn how to run the base that sprawls over 195 square miles between Oceanside and San Clemente.

Neil said he was notified Tuesday night that he was being called up and would command Camp Pendleton for an indefinite period. “It depends on what occurs on the world scene,” he said.

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Though the base has experienced its biggest mobilization since the Vietnam War, Neil also said there “are still a lot of Marines on board” to oversee at the base.

The camp normally has a complement of 36,000 Marines as well as several thousand dependents and civilian employees. The Marine Corps has consistently declined to disclose how many Leathernecks have departed the base for the Middle East.

Enough Marines remain on base to keep infantry training and various other schools in high gear, Neil said Wednesday. “It will be business as usual up there, just with me heading the base,” he said.

In civilian life, Neil supervises 27 other lawyers at the San Diego insurance defense firm, where he is a name partner, Neil, Dymott, Perkins, Brown & Frank.

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Neil said financial considerations were not relevant when he was notified of his assignment to Camp Pendleton.

“I’d do it for nothing,” he said. “This is a time to serve my country.”

Neil, who went to high school and college in San Diego, graduated from the University of California’s Boalt Hall law school at Berkeley in 1966 and joined the Marines.

He served as an infantry platoon commander in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart.

In 1970, Neil left active duty but remained in the Marine Reserves and began practicing law in San Diego.

He was promoted to brigadier general in the Marine Reserves in April, 1989.

Neil, who has served on a variety of bar and community boards, also is a partner in a downtown San Diego restaurant, Reidy O’Neil’s.

He lives in Mission Beach with his wife, Jan Ellen, and two children, Sean, 12, and Megan, 14.

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