Those who know Army Gen. Mark Milley say the administration’s choice to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is a soldier’s soldier. He’s likely better known at Fort Bragg than in Washington, D.C. He is not part of the Pentagon establishment and has spent more time in Afghanistan than inside the Beltway.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. is scheduled to retire next fall. Trump said the transition date was to be determined. “I am thankful to both of these incredible men for their service to our Country!” Trump tweeted. Milley’s nomination will need to be confirmed by the Senate. No date has been set for the confirmation.
Milley became the 39th Chief of Staff of the Army in August 2015 after serving as commanding general of Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg. He has had numerous command and staff positions in eight divisions and Special Forces units throughout his 35 years of military service. A native of Winchester, Massachusetts, Milley received his commission from Princeton University in 1980.
He has served in the 82nd Airborne Division and the 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg. “I’ve watched him lead soldiers overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as at home ... and most recently as the commander of U.S. Forces Command,” said former Army Secretary John McHugh in a statement. “At all times, he has led with distinction in both war and peace.”
McHugh has known Milley since Milley’s days commanding the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, an Army post in the district McHugh represented as a congressman. McHugh praised Milley as a “remarkable leader.”
A Hill staffer who met Milley in Afghanistan agreed. “He came across as very well-informed and as someone who’d thought about the situation he was dealing with fairly deeply,” the source said.
The question now for many is whether a mind that could grasp Afghanistan can effectively manage the unpredictable world of Washington. History records that military leaders with field backgrounds don’t always do well in D.C. Straight shooters haven’t usually served the Army well as chief of staff or as chairman.
Military regimentation doesn’t translate into politics naturally. Gen. Eric Shinseki’s assessment that 100,000 troops were needed to occupy Iraq brought him grief in the administration of former President George W. Bush.
Milley’s operational deployments include the Multi-National Force and Observers, or MFO, Sinai, Egypt; Operation Just Cause, Panama; Operation Uphold Democracy, Haiti; Operation Joint Endeavor, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq; and three tours during Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan. He also deployed to Somalia and Colombia.
Milley and his wife have been married for more than 30 years and have two children.