View Full Version : Military shuffles local Marine brass

06-20-04, 06:17 AM
Military shuffles local Marine brass


CAMP PENDLETON ---- Marine Corps officials said Wednesday that sweeping changes in the command of Southern California-based Marine units that are now in Iraq are purely administrative and not results of performance in the field.

The replacement this summer of the top commanders of three major Marine units ---- Camp Pendleton-based I Marine Expeditionary Force, 1st Marine Division, and Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, as well as the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station ---- comes in the middle of the Marines' second major deployment to Iraq. At least 25,000 Marines under the blanket command of the I Marine Expeditionary Force ---- I MEF ---- are serving in the Al Anbar province in western Iraq. And an additional 5,000 are on their way.

Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Rose-Anne Lynch said it's just a season for change.

"This is just the normal time of year for changing command," Lynch said Wednesday. "These are all normal and routine changes."

Some of the changes still need Senate approval before new generals take their turns at the helm in Iraq.

Perhaps the most significant of the moves is the replacement of I MEF commander Lt. Gen. James Conway with U.S. Central Command Operations Director Maj. Gen. John Sattler. The Pentagon announced the move this week.

Sattler, who is based at Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., commands the multiservice counterterrorism force for the Persian Gulf region and northeastern Africa. He was nominated by President Bush this week for advancement to lieutenant general, putting him in line to replace Conway.

Military officials had no comment on the reasons for Conway's departure.

Gen. James Mattis, commander of the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Division, is also on the way out.

The recent announcement of his departure came as a shock to some because Mattis directly commands most of the Marine combat forces in Iraq, including those in the cities of Fallujah, Ramadi and Qaim, where troops have met some of the fiercest and most organized opposition to the occupation,

His move was announced just a few days after he and Conway made an agreement with former Saddam Hussein-era Iraqi generals to disengage from a month of heavy fighting in Fallujah and left the city essentially in rebel control. Recent eyewitness accounts in The Washington Post and The New York Times indicate that hooded rebels largely control the city of 300,000 and have instituted strict elements of Islamic law while the Marines patrol villages nearby.

Camp Pendleton and Pentagon officials refused to comment on the reasons for Mattis' move, and officials at neither the Defense Department nor the Marine Corps Headquarters would say who would replace him.

The final big change planned for Camp Pendleton is the retirement of two-year base commander Maj. Gen. William Bowdon III. Bowdon will be replaced by Maj. Gen. Timothy E. Donovan, commander of Marine Corps forces in Korea.

Bowdon is scheduled to retire July 1 after two years as commander of the Marine Corps' largest base.

Bowdon's two-year tenure as chief was marked by breaking ground on a massive housing construction project and a leading a fight with environmentalists over training restrictions on the base's ecologically sensitive lands. He presided over training for the two recent deployments to Iraq which, in 2003, nearly emptied the base and left Bowdon with only a skeleton crew to run base operations.

Donovan, a 33-year veteran of the Marine Corps, is a former tank officer and tactics instructor who led operational planning for the I MEF during the Gulf War. For the last three years, he has served as commander of the U.S. Marine Forces in Korea.

Miramar also has undergone changes.

Maj. Gen. James Amos, commander of the Miramar-based 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, was replaced by Maj. Gen. Keith Stalder at Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq on May 29.

Amos has been nominated for a job among the command staff at the II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Stalder, who replaced Amos, served as deputy commander of I MEF and the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade during the invasion and early occupation.

Contact staff writer Darrin Mortenson at (760) 740-5442 or dmortenson@nctimes.com.