General James F. Amos, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps
General James F. Amos, USMC, is the 31st and current Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps. A Naval aviator by trade, General Amos has held command at all levels from Lieutenant Colonel to Lieutenant General. Most notably he commanded the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing in combat during Operations Iraqi Freedom I and II from 2002-2004, followed by command of the II Marine Expeditionary Force from 2004-2006. He subsequently served as the Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command and as the Deputy Commandant, Combat Development and Integration from 2006 to July 2008. General Amos was promoted to his present rank and assumed the duties of Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps on 2 July 2008.
Operational assignments include tours with Marine Fighter Attack Squadrons 212, 235, 232 and 122 where he flew the F-4 Phantom II. In 1985 General Amos assumed command of Marine Wing Support Squadron 173. Later, transitioning to the F/A-18 Hornet, he assumed command of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 and subsequently joined Carrier Air Wing Eight onboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). General Amos took command of Marine Aircraft Group 31 Beaufort, SC in May 1996.
General Amos' staff assignments include tours with Marine Aircraft Groups 15 and 31, the III Marine Amphibious Force, Training Squadron Seven, The Basic School, and with the MAGTF Staff Training Program. Promoted to Brigadier General in 1998 he was assigned to NATO as Deputy Commander, Naval Striking Forces, Southern Europe, Naples Italy. During this tour he commanded NATO's Kosovo Verification Center, and later served as Chief of Staff, U.S. Joint Task Force Noble Anvil during the air campaign over Serbia. Transferred in 2000 to the Pentagon, he was assigned as Assistant Deputy Commandant for Aviation. Reassigned in December 2001, General Amos served as the Assistant Deputy Commandant for Plans, Policies and Operations Department, Headquarters, Marine Corps.
Change of Command
By Col John Keenan (Ret), Marine Corps Gazette editor
As I write this editorial, Gen James F. Amos has been nominated to serve as the Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC). Of course his nomination created quite a stir as he is the first aviator who has been nominated and, if the Senate concurs with his selection, will serve as the CMC.
Some traditionalists are of course perturbed that an aviator would be selected to the most important post in the Corps. My response to them is, as we say in Brooklyn, “fuggedaboudit.” In fact in the July 2009 Gazette, LtCol A.C. “Che” Bolden’s article, “It’s Time!” argues for the appointment of an aviator as CMC. I have gone on record in the past saying that the real difference between the Marine Corps and the best infantry units in the United States Army is our aviation component, which puts the “A” in MAGTF. After over 8 years of war, the distinction between the Corps and the Army has narrowed dangerously for us. In some circles inside and outside the Pentagon there is difficulty in discerning any difference and thereby bringing into question the organization, mission, and role of the Marine Corps in the national defense. Even Secretary Gates has asked, “What differentiates the Marine Corps from the Army?” Perhaps an aviator as CMC at this juncture is propitious for the Corps in a way that the Secretary of Defense and the Navy never intended.
Gen Amos will face significant challenges during his tenure. At the risk of hyperbole, I don’t think any CMC since Gen A.A. Vandegrift has faced such a serious challenge to the Marine Corps as will be faced by Gen Amos. Gen Vandegrift, after World War II, faced the challenge of the unification fight and an attempt to legislate the Marine Corps out of existence. Thanks in no small part to a group of active duty and retired Marines, as well as the effect that Gen Vandegrift’s “Bended Knee” speech had on a Senate committee, the Corps was saved from extinction or being marginalized. I commend it to you; it is available at http://www.tecom.usmc.mil/HD/Docs_Speeches/BendedKnee.htm.
While the Corps may not face an existential threat, it does face a serious threat to its organization, role, and missions. We face these challenges while we are in a tough, nasty fight in a tough, nasty place. I would never presume to give advice to a Marine as experienced and skillful as Gen Amos, but clearly he will have to be a master of dual focus. He will have to fight the current fight in Afghanistan and at the same time fight inside the Pentagon for the future of the Marine Corps. Gen Vandegrift had the distinct advantage of fighting one war at a time. That is a luxury that is denied Gen Amos.
Immediately Gen Amos faces challenges to the Corps’ statutory mission and organization. The future of the expeditionary fighting vehicle (EFV) is unclear. If we don’t field the EFV, then what? Is there an alternative that still gives us a forcible entry capability? Will the fiscal bill to retrofit amphibious ships to allow the F–35B to operate lend weight to the Navy’s argument to buy only the carrier compatible version of the aircraft for the Marine Corps? Even Marine general officers have said that our 202,000 end strength is temporary, and we will go back down in the size of the Corps. To what size will we shrink? When and how will we be organized? Of course, the divisive issue of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” looms in the future.
When it comes to standing up for what is best for the Nation’s defense, and the Corps’ organization, roles, and mission as an important contributor to that defense, I believe Gen Amos will roll in “cleared hot” to fight for the Corps by all Marines, whether they are active duty, veteran, ground, or air wing.