If a Commandant Rises in Washington and No One Hears It …?

News outlet Politico announced the winners of the Commandant of the Marine Corps contest. The unofficial winner is Gen. James Amos. The first runner up is Lt. Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. (We hear Gen. Jim (“I like Brawlin’”) Mattis was voted Miss Congeniality, but we could not confirm.)

Though the official announcement has not yet been made by Defense Secretary (and Occasional Super Hero) Robert M. Gates, the choices are a bit of a surprise. The speculative top three for CMC had been Dunford, commander of the First Marine Expeditionary Force; Mattis, who heads Joint Forces Command; and Lt. Gen. John Allen, the U.S. Central Command deputy commander. Amos has spent the past two years a heartbeat away from the top job serving as the Corps’ assistant commandant. If Amos nomination is approved, he will be the first aviator to fill the job, we believe.

Often aviators fill the assistant commandant, or ACMC, post. Amos will be the first ACMC fleet up CMC since the coronation of the iconic Gen. Paul X. (“P.X.”) Kelly in 1983.

As ACMC, Amos heads the Corps’ programs targeting families, wounded warrior medical challenges like post traumatic stress disorder, and the like. It has been said he might be easier to work with than some past commandants. Does this mean he will be less colorful?

“Cooperative” in Gates’ world probably is seen as a gift from God. DoD may be faced with significant cuts beginning in 2011. One source says Amos will roll on budget issues and programs like the much embattled expeditionary fighting vehicle, or EFV. But he may prove the ideal person to usher in possible changes to personnel policies such as those governing the service of homosexuals.

This is not the greatest time for the Marine Corps. It is engaged in a land army role with some questioning their utility beyond an auxiliary land force—one that could be filled by the Army, coalition partners or even a large band of mercenaries. (We made up the last one, but it is not far off). The Marine Corps maintains it must segue back to its core competency of maneuver from the sea. (No one else can perform this signature function.)

It must convince Congress it has quite the diverse bag of tricks. Point: Much of this will fall to Amos. Other commandants have worked their magic, notably Gen. Al “Only when There’s Trouble” Gray during the Gulf War and Gen. Chuck “I Never Sleep” Krulak a few years later.

If Amos is, in fact, The Chosen One, it seems Gates may picked the right man for the times.

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