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June 13, 2007

The Fragging of Gen. Peter Pace

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced last Friday that he will recommend Adm. Mike Mullen, the current chief of naval operations to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - and not Gen. Peter Pace.

To be kind, many were caught by surprise and many others are annoyed.

By all accounts, Secretary Gates had all intentions for General Pace to serve another two-year term. This was to the delight of those who admire him and are acutely interested in battle-tested leadership in the Pentagon instead of the ivory tower Remington-raiders, who are quickly proliferating in military leadership positions.

General Pace has served in the Marine Corps for over 40 years and is the first Marine to hold the position as chairman. His term will end September 30. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the principle military advisor to the secretary of defense, the National Security Council, and the president.

General Pace was nominated to be the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 2001 while he was serving as the commander of the U.S. Southern Command. He will - unfortunately - be the shortest-serving chairman since Gen. Maxwell Taylor stepped down in 1964 to become the U. S. ambassador to South Vietnam.

General Pace is a 1967 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. After his completion of The Basic School at Quantico in 1968, he was deployed to the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, and 1st Marine Division in the Republic of Vietnam.

There he served as a rifle platoon leader, where he led Marines in what is arguably, some of the most dangerous urban combat in our military history at the Battle of Hue during the Tet Offensive.

He has since commanded at all levels of the Marine Corps and more importantly earned the respect of all fighting men and women in uniform who know what it is like to get smoke in your eyes and sand in your teeth.

Secretary Gates also revealed that in addition to Admiral Mullen for chairman, he will recommend Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, the current commander of U.S. Strategic Command, for the position of vice chairman. Navy Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani, Jr., the current vice chairman, has recently announced his decision to retire.

"I have become well acquainted with Admiral Mullen over the last six months and believe he has the strategic insight, experience, and integrity to lead America's armed forces," Secretary Gates said.

Although recommending a Marine to be vice-chairman is accepted as an olive branch, and Admiral Mullen's service to our country is to be respected and admired, many closer to the sand are not humored.

In the last number of weeks it was considered to be a no-brainer to re-nominate General Pace, a highly decorated combat veteran.

The secretary has been quoted saying the confirmation hearing was likely to be an awkward "backward-looking and very contentious process."

"That, because General Pace has served as chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the last six years, the focus of his confirmation process would have been on the past rather than the future," observed Secretary Gates.

Duh, since when has a contentious confirmation process been an impediment for doing the right thing, especially in light of several difficult Supreme Court confirmations and toe-to-toe stand-offs over Iraq War funding, for examples that come quickly to mind.

To that Secretary Gates responded: "I am no stranger to contentious confirmations, and I do not shrink from them. However, I have decided at this moment in our history, the nation, our men and women in uniform, and General Pace himself would not be well-served by a divisive ordeal in selecting the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."

Whispers in the hallways indicate that people, who dislike the president and are politically vested in a failure in Iraq, are hell-bound to deny the president any opportunity to succeed, the welfare of the country be damned.

Others, with a less charitable assessment of the situation and the president, are mumbling to their Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) that the president has lost his nerve or worse: "(President) Bush has made it quite clear. He doesn't want any soldier, any warrior in a leadership position in our military! When the military leaders themselves are nothing but de-facto business managers, professors, bureaucrats, politicians, where will future presidents go to get the point of view of the (combat-tested warrior) .," grumbled a background source.

Admiral Mullen graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968. He has commanded three warships, the USS Noxabee, the USS Goldsborough and the USS Yorktown. He also served as a flag officer when he commanded the USS George Washington Battle Group and served as the commander of the U.S. 2nd Fleet/NATO Striking Fleet Atlantic.

But most men and women in uniform understand him to be a military academician. He earned his Master's of Science degree in Operations Research and completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School in 1991.

As many in the military are quick to point out, "we aren't running a Fortune 500 company here and even if we were practical experience also accounts for a lot in the business world."

Admiral Mullen and General Cartwright are great men of accomplishment and we all pray for their success.

But, essentially, many grunts and soldiers feel that Washington politics is fragging a superior combat-tested military leader.

All as a result of our current environment in Washington where the likes Nevada Sen. Harry Reid have politicized the military and poisoned the safety of our men and women serving in harms' way in the pursuit of a good election campaign commercial.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at:

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