Gen. Mark Milley, an Ivy League graduate and career grunt, has been nominated to be your next Army chief of staff.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced Milley's nomination Wednesday during a briefing at the Pentagon.
If confirmed by the Senate, Milley would succeed Gen. Ray Odierno, who is retiring later this summer after serving as the Army's top leader since September 2011.
Carter described Milley as "a warrior and a statesman."
"He not only has plenty of operational and joint experience in Afghanistan, in Iraq and on the Joint Staff, but he also has the intellect and vision to lead change throughout the Army," he said.
Carter described observing Milley's service up-close when the general led the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command in Afghanistan.
"Mark and I flew to Herat the day after an attack on the U.S. consulate there," Carter said. "I saw Mark take command of the scene and stand with our people there. I was impressed by his candor and good judgment, and I knew right away he had even more to offer to the United States Army."
Milley's nomination comes after months of speculation about Odierno's successor, and many considered him a dark horse among a field of potential nominees that included Gen. Daniel Allyn, the vice chief of staff, Gen. John Campbell, the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Perkins, the commanding general of Training and Doctrine Command, and Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Army Pacific.
Milley pinned on his fourth star and took command of Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in August after serving as commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood, Texas.
Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, left, with then-Lt. Gen. Mark Milley in 2013 in Afghanistan.
Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez/Army
A 1980 graduate of Princeton University, Milley has served in the 82nd Airborne Division and 5th Special Forces Group. He also served with the 7th Infantry Division, the 10th Mountain Division, the 25th Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne Division.
Milley, a native of the Boston area, also previously served on the operations staff of the Joint Staff and as a military assistant to the defense secretary.
If confirmed by the Senate, Milley will lead an Army in transition as it undergoes a steep draw down and sweeping reorganization amid increasingly tight budgets. He also will take the reins of a combat-hardened Army that continues to respond to contingencies around the world even as it recovers from more than a decade of war and back-to-back deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I've watched him lead soldiers overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as at home in Fort Hood, Texas, and most recently as the command U.S. Forces Command," said 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 his "earliest days" commanding the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, an Army installation that was part of the district McHugh represented as a congressman. McHugh praised Milley as a "remarkable leader."
"Should the Senate confirm him, I am confident that Gen. Milley will be an exceptional chief of staff and member of the Joint Chiefs," McHugh said.
"The president has chosen a phenomenal leader in Gen. Mark Milley," Odierno said in a statement. "Gen. Milley is an experienced, combat-tested and caring leader. I have known Gen. Milley for many years, have served with him in Iraq and watched him in Afghanistan. I am confident that he is the right leader to lead our Army into the future."
Milley is "an excellent choice" to be the next Army chief of staff, retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan, president of the Association of the United States Army and a former chief himself, said in a statement.
"His 34 years of service, including combat duties in Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan, make him an experienced battlefield leader," Sullivan said.
Milley's experience at FORSCOM, III Corps, the 10th Mountain Division and in Afghanistan give him "firsthand knowledge of what the Army can do and of the impact of resource constraints on its capabilities," Sullivan said, as he urged for a quick confirmation of Milley's nomination.
"The Army faces many challenges and will benefit from what we know will be his proven skill as a leader with hard-earned credentials as a senior commander in peace and war," Sullivan said.
During an October interview with Army Times, Milley said all three of the Army's components must be ready to respond to "the entire range of military operations" in an uncertain, volatile world.
"Our No. 1 task is readiness," Milley said at the time. "It's readiness now, because we have no earthly idea what will happen a month or two from now."
And as commander of FORSCOM, that readiness – and the Army's ability to conduct a range of military operations, from humanitarian assistance to combat operations – has been Milley's top priority.
Then-Col. Mark A. Milley, a Winchester, Ma. native, watched Game 2 of the 2004 World Series from a conference room in Iraq. He is a big Boston fan.
Photo Credit: Pfc. Matthew McLaughlin/Army
FORSCOM is the Army's largest command, and its mission is to prepare trained and ready forces to meet the needs of combatant commands around the world.
"An army, any army, doesn't matter which army it is, only has two tasks – it's either prepare for war or prepare for combat," he said during the interview. "Absent the actual act of fighting, then our fundamental task is to prepare for the act of fighting. It means training. It means manning. It means equipping. It means leading."
More recently, in his role as commander of Forces Command, Milley was appointed the general court-martial convening authority in the case of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Bergdahl, who spent five years as a captive under the Taliban, was charged March 25 with one count of desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty, and one count of misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.
Milley made the decision to charge Bergdahl after a review of the facts and findings from an extensive Army investigation to determine what, if any, action should be taken against Bergdahl.
Bergdahl disappeared from Combat Outpost Mest-Lalak in Paktika province, Afghanistan, on June 30, 2009. He has been accused of leaving his patrol base alone and intentionally before he was captured by Taliban insurgents.
Bergdahl, whose Article 32 is scheduled for July 8, spent five years as a captive under the Taliban before he was freed in a controversial May 31 prisoner swap that also freed five Taliban leaders from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
As commander of III Corps, Milley led his soldiers to Afghanistan and served as commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command.
He also led the corps and Fort Hood as it healed from its second deadly on-post shooting in five years.
Then-Lt. Gen. Mark Milley discusses the Fort Hood shooting incident at an April 2, 2014 press conference.
Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Daniel Wallace/Army
Lopez-Lopez killed himself after he was confronted by a military police officer.
The shooting followed a November 2009 rampage by former Maj. Nidal Hasan that killed 13 people. Hasan has said he was angry about being deployed to Afghanistan and wanted to protect Islamic and Taliban leaders from U.S. troops.
Milley's awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Army Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with two bronze oak leaf clusters, the Bronze Star Medal with three bronze oak leaf clusters, the Combat Infantryman Badge with star, the Expert Infantryman Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge, the Scuba Diver Badge, the Ranger tab, and the Special Forces tab.
Some more information about your new chief:
• Milley wasn't always on a career-officer trajectory, he told his alma mater's alumni magazine in 2014.
Inspired by the World War II service of both his parents, including his father's time as a Navy corpsman with Marines on Iwo Jima, Milley wanted to join up "but didn't think I'd make a career of it," he told Princeton Alumni Weekly. "But then I really liked it. I got this sense of commitment and of being involved in something that had a sense of purpose. Then 9/11 comes, and at that point, I've got 20–21 years in. When that happened, I said I can't retire: I had to stay until this thing is done."
• According to a search of official chief of staff biographies, Milley will be the first to hold an undergraduate degree from an Ivy League institution. Gen. Leonard Wood, who served as chief of staff from 1910 to 1914, entered the Army as a contract surgeon in the mid-1880s, according to his bio, after attending Harvard Medical School.
Milley will be the first chief of staff who wasn't commissioned via the U.S. Military Academy since Gen. George Casey (2007-2011), who attended Georgetown. Casey also was the last Ranger-tabbed chief of staff, according to the official bios.
• Milley's move from head of Army Forces Command to the service's top job was last made by Gen. Dennis Reimer, who led FORSCOM from 1993 to 1995 and served as chief of staff from 1995 to 1999, according to his online bio.
• Upon taking command of 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, in November 2011, Milley was asked by a reporter if he could ever become a Yankee fan.
"That would be a difficult thing for me to do, to become a Yankee fan," the Massachusetts native said. "And I know I'm in New York, but northern New York is geographically closer to Boston than it is to New York City, for those of you who want to break out the maps. So, I am a Red Sox fan, Patriots fan, Bruins and Celtics fan."
Milley was with that same unit as a colonel in 2004 in Iraq when the Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918.
Staff writer Kevin Lilley contributed to this report.
Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.