One of the Marine Corps’ biggest advocates in Congress is facing a tough re-election fight, and a former commandant has lent his name to the campaign with hopes it will swing some votes in a district teeming with active-duty Marines and veterans.
Voters in eastern North Carolina head to the polls Tuesday to determine whether Republican Rep. Walter Jones survives what’s been a heated primary contest with challenger Taylor Griffin, who worked for the Treasury Department during George W. Bush’s tenure in the White House. The race has generated significant buzz beyond North Carolina thanks to Griffin’s powerful connections, including to former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who’ve either offered their endorsement or infused his campaign with cash. Slate.com published this long-form feature on Griffin just last week.
In Jones’ corner is retired Gen. Charles Krulak, the Marine Corps’ 31st commandant. Both are household names in North Carolina’s 3rd congressional district, which includes Camp Lejeune and the Marine Corps air stations at New River and Cherry Point. Jones has held that seat since 1995, just as Krulak was starting his four-year tenure as the top Marine.
I checked in with Krulak on Monday after reading a brief commentary he wrote on the congressman’s behalf for a host of local newspapers, including The Daily News of Jacksonville, N.C. It piqued my interest for several reasons, not the least of which is my own connection to that part of the country. Before moving to Washington, where Marine Corps Times is based, I spent a little less than two years working at The Daily News and in that time reported regularly on the Marine Corps and Congressman Jones.
More recently, of course, I’ve reported on Jones’ fierce criticism of the current commandant, Gen. Jim Amos, and his defense of Maj. James Weirick, the Marine attorney turned whistleblower who accused Amos and others of abusing their authority and then exacting revenge for having done so. As a result, Walter Jones does not exactly poll well in the commandant’s office.
I had to know why Krulak went to bat for him.
“You can say a lot of things about Congressman Jones,” Krulak told me. “He works hard. He’s not a slacker. … But before he’s anything, he is my friend. He’s concerned about the men and women in uniform, and that’s all I’m concerned about.”
That was a recurring theme throughout our conversation. Krulak explained that it’s not merely Jones’ support for big-ticket acquisition projects that makes him “no better friend” to the Marine Corps. It’s his support for the troops’ personal safety and their well being, he said. In other words, Krulak supports Jones because Jones supports individual Marines.
Indeed, he’s got a strong track record of doing just that. For instance, when I was city editor at The Daily News in 2004 and 2005, Jones threw down when the Marine Corps sought to prosecute 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano for the deaths of two Iraqi men. Amos was the commanding general of Pantano’s parent command at that time.
Before that, Jones took up the cause of two MV-22 Osprey pilots who were at the controls when their aircraft crashed in Arizona in 2000, killing them and 17 other Marines. He has lobbied the Marine Corps to update its official records — so far to no avail — so that they clearly indicate the pilots were not to blame for the incident. I’ve spoken to Jones numerous times over the years, and almost every conversation comes back to this cause of his. Amos, the first aviator to become commandant, was intimately involved with the Osprey’s development and as a one-star general came under heavy scrutiny during its early troubles. It’s unclear why he hasn’t addressed Jones’ request — though certainly it’s not for a lack of effort, nor for lack of support.
Is it bad blood? I think that’s a fair question, and it compelled me to ask Krulak this: Given that many within HQMC view Walter Jones as a troublemaker, are you concerned with how your endorsement may be viewed by Gen. Amos?
“That did not enter into my decision,” he replied. “I made this decision based on the individual and his track record for taking care of the young men and women in uniform.”
Jones’ issues with Amos “have been played out in the media,” Krulak continued. I braced for what I expected to come next: a polite but pointed swipe at the muckraking Marine Corps Times and my fellow travelers in the mainstream press. But no. The general’s view is decidedly more progressive than that.
“I’m not always going to agree with Marine Corps Times,” he said, “but that’s what you’re supposed to be. You tell it like it is.”
“No one was taking it easy on General Krulak,” he said. “But I asked myself ‘what deserves media attention?’ And I came back to the Constitution and ‘what are we fighting for if not freedom of speech?’ You’re not an organ for the Marine Corps or for General Krulak. You’re an organ for the people, and they deserve unbiased reporting.”
Much has been made of Marine Corps Times’ reporting over the past year as we’ve endeavored to explain and make sense of the incredibly serious allegations Maj. Weirick and Congressman Jones have brought to light. Obviously, it’s won us few friends at Marine Corps headquarters. But we put our belief in transparency above all of that. It’s certainly encouraging to learn we’re not alone in embracing such ideals.
Water scarcity, regional conflict zones, and the “youth bulge:” these are all problems that may become the Marine Corps’ business in the near future.
That was the message from Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos this week when he gave an audience at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space expo a glimpse into what’s ahead for the Corps. By 2020, he said, expect two new crisis Marine Corps crisis response forces positioned near potential conflict zones and a rotational force established in Guam like the one already conducting training deployments in Australia.
Amos also indicated that the future of the Corps will focus significantly on the African continent, home to massive resources, but also poverty, instability, and conflict.
In a briefing slide depicting potential future crises, Amos showed a map depicting likely causes of conflict and instability. Some global stressors, such as nuclear armed states and areas of terrorist activity, were self-explanatory; others, such as water stress, and the “youth bulge,” were less intuitive.
Regarding water stress, highlighted in much of Africa, Amos said this factor is important to watch because it drove behavior.
“In those areas especially in the African continent, a gallon or a liter of clear fresh water, potable water, is worth more than a liter of petrol,” Amos said.
The youth bulge, also covering most of Africa and a portion of the Middle East, referred to regions where the population was increasing, in some places exponentially, Amos said.
With factors such as hunger, water stress, and joblessness, Amos said, “you throw in an increase on youth. Disaffected youth. unemployed youth. Youth that wander across borders. And then you look the areas where our fuel and our oil reserves are, and then you take a look at where nuclear weapons are, and you get a sense of just how dangerous the world is going to be.”
A map showing the Marine Corps in 2020 overlays global conflict and crisis zones with forward-deployed Marine units. The continent of Africa will be surrounded on three sides by Marine Corps crisis response units as Special Purpose-Marine Air Ground Task Force Crisis Response finds a forward-staged location in the Gulf of Guinea, in addition to its current location in Europe, and is joined by SP-MAGTF Cent, covering U.S. Central Command.
Meanwhile, another crisis response force, SP-MAGTF South, will give U.S. Southern Command additional power to combat drug-related crime in central and South America.
And by 2020, the long-promised Marine Rotational Force-Guam will also be established, Amos said.
All this will give the Marine Corps greater presence in the Pacific, but also expand its crisis response presence around the larger land masses to the west, where burgeoning conflict zones have been identified.
“We’re in the Pacific,” Amos said. “It’s our backyard and we’re very comfortable in that neck of the woods again.”
A congressman told Gen. James Amos that Marines in his district would like to see their M9 service pistol replaced with a .45-caliber — and Amos replied that he would, too.
Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., said he recently spent time with Marines during a wounded warrior function, during Wednesday’s House Armed Services Committee hearing on the proposed Navy-Marine Corps fiscal 2015 budget. Before the congressman launched into questions on the budget, he said there were a few those Marines asked him to speak up for.
The first was the deadly A-10 Thunderbolt, which the Air Force flies to provide close-air support. But the second was a topic a lot of Marines could probably get behind: new pistols.
“They sure would like to have a .45 instead of a 9 millimeter,” Scott told the commandant.
While Amos didn’t address the Marines’ desire to fly the A-10, he jumped on the comment about the pistol.
“I’d like the .45 instead of a 9 millimeter, too,” Amos quipped. “But it’s for another budget, another time.”
You can read more about what the commandant said about the budget here.
Questions about whether Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos illegally pressured subordinates to punish Marines shown urinating on Taliban corpses in a video may limit Amos’ ability to lead the Marine Corps for the remainder of his tenure, Foreign Policy is reporting.
Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, a respected general officer, has alleged that Amos made clear he wanted the Marines in the video thrown out of the Marine Corps — a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which prevents a commander from interfering in legal proceedings, Foreign Policy reported in the Feb. 27 story. Amos recently recently told National Public Radio that he never said he wanted those Marines kicked out of the service, but one retired general officer defended Waldhauser.
“Tom Waldhauser does not lie,” retired Maj. Gen. Melvin Spiese told Foreign Policy. “I have found him an officer of character.”
The turmoil has some members of Congress questioning Amos’ ability to do his job, but lawmakers are unlikely to pursue the matter because Amos is set to retire in October, an unidentified Republican staffer told Foreign Policy.
“Amos runs the risk of being a lame duck, and that’s something that would be unique for a commandant,” Foreign Policy quoted the staffer as saying. “I think a lot of people look at this, and where they see smoke, there’s fire. At this point, a pattern has developed, and I think people wonder whether he can effectively lead the Marine Corps.”
The story was written by Dan Lamothe, a former Marine Corps Times reporter who recently joined Foreign Policy. Lamothe notes that Amos personally challenged him to attend infantry officer training at Quantico, Va., after Amos was angered by a Marine Corps Times story headline that read two female officers had “flunk[ed]” the training.
Amos still enjoys the support of current and retired general officers, Foreign Policy reported. His most prominent supporter is Medal of Honor recipient Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, who wrote a personal blog on Feb. 13 defending Amos from what he feels are unfair attacks by the media.
Meyer has received some criticism for voicing his full support for Amos, but he told Foreign Policy that he could care less what those people think of him.
“If you’ve lost all respect for me for standing next to a man that I believe in with my whole heart and respect as a person and a leader, then I don’t want your respect anyways,” Meyer told Foreign Policy. “ I question whether you understand what the phrase ‘ Semper Fidelis’ really means.”
Marine Corps commandant Gen. Jim Amos sat down for an interview with Leatherneck Magazine recently, which is freshly out in the magazine’s February edition.
The interviewer, Arthur P. Brill Jr., asked Amos if one of the dire consequences he predicted would result from shrinking the Corps to 174,000–having to ship troops straight from “the drill field to the battlefield”–was really likely to happen. The answer: not terribly, but conditions will still be more constrained with a smaller force.
Leatherneck: You testified recently that Marines could go straight from boot camp to combat without giving them precombat training. Would you really do that?
Gen Amos: The answer is no. But, if our strength and capabilities drop, we can fight just one major contingency someplace. If that big one comes, Marines will go to war and won’t come home until it’s over. We will not have the depth to rotate people back and forth. Similar to Korea in the early 1950s, Marines could go from boot camp to the battlefield. Believe me, we would do everything possible not to do that.
In another exchange, Brill asks whether the “basket leave” granted to same-sex couples, which gives them time to travel to another state to be married, is raising some hackles. Amos reveals some interesting data: there are fewer than 25 Marine same-sex couples on active duty. And apparently the leave policy hasn’t been a problem.
Leatherneck: How many same-sex couples does the Corps have, and is the “basket leave” they receive to get married causing any rumblings?
Gen Amos: We have about 144 same-sex couples on active duty, and less than 25 are a Marine with a Marine. Most are a Marine and a civilian or a Marine with another servicemember. Same-sex marriages are not allowed in all the states, so the Secretary of Defense authorized them “basket leave” to get married in another state. He’s trying to take care of these people. It’s not causing any concern to my knowledge, and I haven’t heard a peep about it.
Read the full interview here.
Dynamic. Self-assertive. Self-protective.
These are words some experts used to describe Marine Corps commandant Gen. Jim Amos–or at least, how they believe his signature describes him.
Writing for MilitaryTimes’ Off Duty section, handwriting experts Sheila Lowe, Kimon Ianetta and Reed Hayes took a look at the John Hancocks of all the military service leaders, including the Commander-in-Chief.
President Barack Obama’s mostly-illegible signature “signals a strong need for privacy,” Lowe said, while Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is “unable or unwilling to tell it like it is” judging from his autograph, she said.
As for the CMC, analysts looked at the “sharp angles and extended hooked final stroke” to determine what the signatory said about the man.
“This is the dynamic, self-assertive signature of someone you don’t cross without severe consequences,” Lowe said. The way the last name is written smaller than the first, she said, “if often seen in people who initially come on strong but then back off a little. Still, once he commits to an action, there is no holding him back.”
Iannetta and Hayes came up with a slightly different but complementary analysis of the signature.
“A confident, energetic, assertive powerhouse, as witnessed by his heavy, strong, angular writing with forward-moving strokes,” they wrote. “Deeply analytical thinker (angular “m”) who objectively considers all angles and cautiously reaches final decisions. Initially, he plays his cards close to his vest (encircled “a”) until he’s certain of which ideas, which he then expresses in a clear, concise, organized and powerful way.”
Do you think this analysis is spot-on or a little suspicious? What do you think the signature says? To read the full story with full analysis of all the service leaders’ signatures, and that of Military Times staff write Jon R. Anderson, pick up a copy of Marine Corps Times on news stands today or get the full print version online with a one-day pass on MarineCorpsTimes Prime.
Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, reassured Marines in Hawaii last week that he was committed to keeping the distinctive MARPAT camouflage pattern for Marines, even as lawmakers consider adopting one single camo pattern for all the services.
Amos has so far been quiet regarding the proposed changes, even as Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has come out in support of a common camouflage–or at least a reduction from the ten-plus patterns now being utilized across the services.
But on July 15 he had some folksy fighting words regarding a change for troops aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
“We are on it like a hobo on a ham sandwich,” Amos said, according to a Marine Corps news release. “I love the hell out of this uniform and I don’t have any intention of changing it.”
What’s not clear from Amos’s comments this month is his perspective on a change that would lead to the other services adopting a camouflage similar or identical to the Marines’ proprietary camouflage pattern.
In 2011 Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Micheal Barrett suggested it wouldn’t be a bad thing for the other services to follow the Marines’ lead in their camouflage research.
“I encourage all services to research our MARPAT during their tests to field a new combat uniform,” he said. “We have the best camouflage pattern in the world, and I believe that it helps save the lives of our Marines and sailors. Our uniforms are distinctive, but what distinguishes [Marines] is our ethos, combat mindset and martial spirit.”
But earlier this year, Barrett pushed back against changes that would lead to a common camouflage.
“There are tactical and psychological advantages unique to our [combat uniform] in terms of morale and culture,” Barrett told Marine Corps Times in a written statement for a June 17 cover story. “Like our dress blues, the [combat uniform] is a visible indicator of our identity as United States Marines, globally! It’s part of our Corps’ identity. Where we walk or sail, people are safer — unless you screw with us!”
Famously, the Marines developed MARPAT on an efficient $319,000 budget. That’s compared to $3.1 million the Air Force spent in 2007 to design a “tiger stripe” pattern that was later determined to be flawed and unfit for combat deployments, and $3.2 million in 2005 to develop an “Army Combat Uniform,” or ACU, which is also being retired due to poor performance.
So far, the House and Senate Armed Services committees have approved language that would require the military services to transition to a common combat uniform by 2018.
Daran Wankum of Merriam Kansas has always wanted to be a U.S. Marine and follow the footsteps of his grandfather, reported KBMC 9 of Kansas City. Unfortunately, at age 18 and before he could get the chance to ship to boot camp, Wankum was diagnosed with a massive tumor located in the center of his brain.
“I didn’t think at all. I just stopped the car and started crying, that’s what I did for 5 minutes,” Wankum told KMBC.
His future seemed shattered because he knew this was a disqualifying factor for entering the Marine Corps. However, the Marine recruiters that he had become well acquainted with were not going to give up on him when he needed them most.
KMBC reports that the recruiters from Wankum’s area stood outside of his hospital room on the day of his surgery, guarding him as he recovered after his risky procedure. His bravery and perseverance attracted attention at the top.
After his story was recognized by General James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, Wankum was sent to Washington D.C. to be made into an Honorary Marine. His father, Eric Wankum, proudly told KMBC that his son had the same perseverance you would expect to see in a Marine, “Strength, and the ability to move on.”
There have been few Honorary Marines who have earned the title throughout the service’s history. It is an honor given only to civilians that exhibit extraordinary commitment and contribution to the Marine Corps.
Marine Corps Times’ cover story this week dives deeply into an issue that has rubbed a number of Marines raw, following the recent publication of news stories about a pending inspector general complaint filed against Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and several members of his staff.
The complaint, among other issues, questioned whether the commandant showed preferential treatment to then-Maj. James B. Conway, the son of retired Commandant Gen. James T. Conway, as the Marine Corps investigated Marines caught on video urinating on the remains of dead Taliban fighters.
The complaint, filed by Maj. James Weirick, a staff judge advocate with Marine Corps Combat Development Command, notes that top Marine officers decided to release James B. Conway from all legal holds last year, enabling him to be promoted to lieutenant colonel and take command of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Meanwhile, other members of his old unit — 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. — were kept on legal hold, unable to take new assignments or be promoted. Lt. Col. Christopher Dixon, the battalion commander at the time, still is, more than a year after the investigation was launched.
Weirick filed his complaint as the trials for several members of the 3/2 scout sniper unit implicated continue to play out.
No one has accused Lt. Col. Conway of any wrongdoing, but a series of emails and memos obtained by Marine Corps Times show senior Marine officials contradicting Conway’s own report to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service while deciding to cut him loose from the investigation. They said he and another officer in the unit, then-1st Lt. Edward Leslie, were not in contact with the scout snipers or have influence over them. However, Conway told investigators he watched the July 27, 2011, operation that day, and eventually handled the bagged bodies of the insurgents when they were transported back to the base for intelligence collection.
Weirick’s complaint will certainly be brought up as the scout sniper cases play out. It also will be tracked by the many advocates who think senior leaders want to throw the book at the scout snipers, a decorated group that braved enemy fire repeatedly and is credited with more than 200 insurgent kills on their deployment, which spanned February to August 2011.
The story is on newsstands now. It’s also posted here as Marine Corps Times Prime content.