This was originally published in The Belle Banner, February 6th 2019. The Belle Banner has since closed shop. I have written about other individual Generals, but only published them locally. However, this individual is now a key figure in the security of the United States of America. Robert Burns, is the Associated Press military reporter for the Pentagon, and has covered the military for the past thirty years. His stories have been so that he could be called an unofficial Pentagon insider. On January 17th, Robert Burns posted a story titled “Gen Milley Key to military continuity as Biden takes office”. It is well worth the read. This story is more about the man, Mark Milley, and the job of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
President Trump announced on December 8th (Army-Navy Game Day) that he was nominating Army Chief of Staff General Mark A. Milley to replace Marine General Joseph Dunford as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The appointment must be approved by the Senate.
What does the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff do, and who is General Mark Milley?
The position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was created in 1949 by amendments to the 1947 National Security Act. The “Chiefs” include the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Chief of Staff of the Army, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, all four star officers. The 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act elevated the position from being the “first among equals” to being “the principal military advisor” to the President and the Secretary of Defense. The Chief has traditionally been rotated among the services, which would point this selection to the Air Force, who last occupied the job in 2005. Both Secretary of Defense Mattis and General Dunford favored Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein. The President interviewed both Generals Goldfein and Milley and immediately selected General Milley. So who is this man who will be the top ranking military officer in the United States of America?
General Mark Milley is currently the Chief of Staff of the Army. When he was selected for that job, three years ago, nobody in Washington, DC knew him. He had not had multiple assignments there, as many general officers have in the past. He has been described as an Ivy League educated career grunt, which I think was meant as a slight by those Northeast writers. He is of very strong character, as well as being physically strong, extremely intelligent, quick witted with a sense of humor, but a straight talking, no BS, tell it like it is kind of guy, he is also known as a “tough guy”. The military, including the Army, has since World War II been terribly slow in changing or obtaining new things. First there has to be a study or two, specifications developed, prototypes built, more studies, then a long bidding process. That really came to light in Iraq, when a new office had to be created just to “break the rules” to rapidly get equipment to the troops. When General Milley became the Chief of Staff, the Army was at the end of a two year, 17 million dollar study to replace its’ handgun (a pistol). General Milley reportedly “blew his top”. He said; “We’re not figuring out the next lunar landing. This is a pistol. Two years to test? At 17 million. You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million. And I’ll get a discount on a bulk buy.” He has since streamlined the army’s acquisition process and practically at his direction a new four star command was created. The Army Futures Command is located in a “tech” neighborhood in downtown Austin, Texas, and the staff wear civilian suits more than army suits. Its mission is to look to and develop for the future and to incorporate the newest and most advanced technology into the Army.
Mark Milley’s father was a Marine in World War II and fought at Iwo Jima. Mark Milley was born September 26th 1950 in Winchester, Massachusetts, which is about eight miles north of downtown Boston. He went to Belmont Hill High School, where he was Captain of the Hockey Team. Mark Milley was on the first team that Ken Martin coached at Belmont Hill. Ken said that out of all the players of 40 years and 700 wins of coaching, Mark Milley stands apart from the crowd. Ken said; “After breaking his jaw in one game, Milley wired his jaw shut, finished the game and did not miss another game the rest of the season. He was one of the most reliable and consistent players we ever had.” After high school, Mark went to Princeton, studied Political Science, took Army ROTC, and played hockey for four years. He was first captain of the JV squad, then played Varsity Hockey. He was nicknamed “Milldog”. This is a tough guy.
He graduated from Princeton in 1980 and was commissioned into the Army as a Second Lieutenant. After the Officer Basic Course and Airborne and Ranger schools, his first assignment was to the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. After about a year there, he transferred to Special Forces, completed the Special Forces Qualification Course and was assigned to an A Detachment, and eventually commanded an A Detachment. When he was assigned to the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, California. He commanded two different infantry companies in the same battalion. The 5th Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment. That is very rare. The only time I know of that happening was when a company commander was relieved of duty (fired) and the battalion commander moved his best company commander to that company to straighten it out. It was in that assignment that he saw combat in Panama. He was a staff officer in the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, in 1994 and deployed to Haiti in Operation Uphold Democracy to remove the military regime there. From Fort Drum he went to Korea and commanded the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry in the 2nd Infantry Division in 1996 – 1998. The 1/506th had responsibility for the DMZ, at that time. As a full Colonel in the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii in 2002 he deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina as Commander of the US Provisional Brigade and took part in mine clearing, reconstruction, and the destruction of weapons.
In 2003 Colonel Milley was assigned back to Fort Drum as the Commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. His brigade deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. After turning over the brigade, he had his first assignment to Washington, DC, where he was Military Assistant to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The job was only for a few months, but Robert Gates was so impressed with Colonel Milley that Gates flew to Fort Campbell, Kentucky on February 1st, 2008 for Milley’s promotion to Brigadier General, where he was Deputy Commanding General for Operations of the 101st Airborne Division. While in that job, he deployed to Afghanistan as Deputy Commander of Regional Command-East. He was promoted to two stars (Major General) and assigned as Commander of the 10th Mountain Division in November 2011. In December 2012 he was promoted to three stars (Lieutenant General) and assigned as the Commanding General of III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas. III Corps includes the 1st Cavalry Division, 36th Engineer Regiment, and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas, the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado, and the 75th Field Artillery Brigade at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. During that job he deployed to Afghanistan as the Commanding General, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, and Deputy Commanding General US Forces – Afghanistan. In August 2014 he was promoted to full General (four stars) and made Commander of US Forces Command, the largest US military command. In August 2015 he was approved by the Senate to be the Chief of Staff of the Army.
While testifying before the House Armed Services Committee about a continuing resolution instead of a budget, he admonished them (chewed them out) for not passing a budget. He said; “I think – candidly – failure to pass a budget, in my view as both an American citizen and the chief of staff of the United States Army, constitutes professional malpractice. I don’t think we should accept it as the new normal. I think we should pass [the budget] …and get on with it. The world is a dangerous place and is becoming more dangerous by the day. Pass the budget.”
At General Milley’s direction a new type of brigade has been formed. Security Force Assistance Brigades are staffed only by leaders, officers and senior non-commissioned officers for a total of about 800 in an entire brigade – no troops. Their mission is to train foreign armies. Special Forces are the masters of creating guerilla armies from scratch. But our combat brigades have been tasked with training established foreign armies that are not very good, like Iraq and Afghanistan. Only the leaders are used to advise and assist those foreign armies, but it makes that brigade non-deployable for a year. General Milley said that his brigade in the 10th Mountain Division was tasked to do an advisory mission in Afghanistan. He said; “My brigade was all broke apart to do that. I thought at that time ….’there has got to be a better way of doing this. There has got to be a more professional way’. We were ad hoc. We were pulling it out of our butts, so to speak”.
General Milley has a Bachelors Degree in Political Science from Princeton, Masters Degrees from Columbia University in International Relations and National and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College, and is a graduate from MIT’s National Security Studies Program. He is charismatic and witty and can be as tough as nails when necessary. He is a humble, no pretense man, while speaking at a function he thanked the organization for the introduction and pageantry, and then said; “This could cause a person to think that they are somebody”. An extremely smart, humble, and tough guy who is used to getting things done