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.
Bonnie Amos, the wife of Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, has taken her work to Facebook.
The First Lady of the Marine Corps’ page was launched online recently, and pointed out by Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Mike Barrett on Twitter today. Mrs. Amos page is online at www.facebook.com/BonnieAmosFLOTMC.
In an introductory post, Mrs. Amos said she is “catching up with the times” and launched the page to reach as many Marine Corps families as possible.
“My hope is that this allows for quick and effective communication with all of you Marine Corps Families out there to keep you posted on the wonderful things going on, from Family Readiness updates, to sharing the inspiration that I get on a daily basis from YOU!” she said. “I’m so excited to be in touch with all of you!”
The page has a handful of posts far, including photographs from the Warrior Games held in Colorado this month.
Barrett joined Twitter late last month, but there are no signs that the commandant will be following suit with social media anytime soon.
“No,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Plenzler, a spokesman for the commandant, last month. “The commandant won’t be tweeting any time soon.”
Our story about the group installing a gravestone for Maj. Samuel Nicholas, first commandant of the Marine Corps, got tons of great attention online, much of it from people who know their Marine Corps history forward and backward and love it.
I hope some of those history-lovers will be able to make it to Philadelphia June 1 for the headstone’s installation ceremony, which organizers say will draw a crowd of “between 50 and 10,000.”
That said, the history buffs did raise a few issues that could not go unaddressed in order to keep the historical record intact.
The first note is an image issue and comes from Military Times staff writer Patricia Kime:
So I hate to sound like a total Marine Corps geek but I’ve been thinking of this ever since y’all printed that old portrait of Samuel Nicholas and now I see the same on is online on the web site.
In the late 80s, the Marine Corps combat artist Major Donna Neary did a different portrait that is considered a more accurate likeness and has the correct uniform. It’s the one that hangs in the Commandant’s home and I guess it’s considered the official likeness of Nicholas. I think a copy of it even hangs in the wardroom of the U.S.S. Nicholas.
We posted this public domain portrait of Nicholas, which was created in the 1920s by Philadelphia artist John J. Capolino, with our story:
Turns out the real first Marine officer did not look quite so much like Lord Byron.
A 1989 issue of Fortitudine, Bulletin of the Marine Corps Historical Program unearthed by Kime published the Neary portrait, showing a Nicholas who is less dashing, but at least in proper regs.
Another reader pointed out that Nicholas technically was not the commandant. While it’s true that the office of Commandant was not officially created until 1798 with Lt. Col. William Burrows, Nicholas is still recognized as the first de facto commandant, having been the first officer to lead the Corps.
Finally, one person took issue with calling Nicholas “The Fighting Quaker.” As the story points out, two-time Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler was the most famous Marine to bear that nickname. But a number of Marines set aside their Quaker tradition in order to follow their convictions and fight.
Marine Corps leadership has relieved six unit commanders and senior officers in the space of a few weeks, and the commandant, Gen. James Amos, is sending a clear message that COs will be held accountable for everything that happens in their unit.
The commandant has portrayed this initiative as a needed course correction following a wave of poor decisions by some and negative publicity that have harmed the Corps’ reputation. But some believe he’s gone too far in his zeal to get the service back on track. During his 2012 Heritage Brief tour promoting individual integrity within the Corps, Amos came under fire for comments that appeared to demonstrate undue command influence, calling for more convictions against sex offenders in the Corps. Now, some fear his call for greater accountability will cost good officers their careers — and that the ground rules are unfair.
We talked to some of the Marine Corps’ most famous and beloved commanders who saw their careers ended abruptly when they were relieved from their posts.
Retired Lt. Col. Asad “Genghis” Khan said he went from being a future contender for commandant to being “treated like roadkill” when he was relieved from command of Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 6th Marines in 2004. Now, he worries that the commandant’s campaign for heightened accountability will result in timid junior officers who are afraid to take risks and make tough decisions.
We also talked to two former commandants who spoke about the difficult decision process to remove a unit commander and how carefully that choice should be made.
Is the Marine Corps sacrificing its strongest leaders to get the service back on track? Or is this an important part of military discipline and a call for a stronger, more cohesive Corps?
Read the story here and let us know what you think in the comments.
Gen. John Allen formally stepped into retirement Monday, moving on after more than 30 years in the Marine Corps with a ceremony at the Naval Academy.
Allen already had been described as “retired” numerous times, but he was still on active duty through this week, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out yesterday. Likewise, Gen. James Mattis has turned over his post as the head of U.S. Central Command to Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, but Mattis won’t formally retire until June. Marine Corps Times profiled him last month.
Allen’s actual retirement ceremony seems to have been conducted outside the limelight. There is no news coverage of yesterday’s ceremony that I’ve seen so far from journalists who were there, although the Marine Corps did release several photographs.
After Allen’s whirlwind run as the commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, retiring quietly was probably a relief. He was investigated by the Pentagon for a potentially inappropriate relationship with a woman, but ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing. The White House announced in February that he’d retire.
Allen discussed the future of Afghanistan in a recent interview with Jim Michaels, but the resulting story has no mention of the investigation. Allen told the Washington Post in February that he was retiring to take care of his wife, who is chronically ill.
Until Allen’s retirement, the Corps briefly had six general officers wearing four stars — a first for the service, Marine officials said. They met at the Home of the Commandants in Washington earlier this month, posing for photographs like this one:
In an interview last month, Gen. John Kelly, one of Allen’s peers and friends, told me that the Corps will miss leaders like Allen and Mattis after they retire.
“Only a few guys like them come along per generation,” Kelly said. “They are brilliant. They are dedicated. They are selflessly devoted to their duties. … They give their unvarnished opinions and recommendations when asked by their political masters or the Congress, then salute and, to their deaths, will carry out the orders they are given. We are less as an institution when men like these ‘go over the side,’ as we Marines say, ‘for the last time.’”