November 8, 2002
Commandant sees the Corps standing tall at home, abroad
Gen. Jones prepares to take command at NATO
By OTTO KREISHER
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON – As he nears the end of his abbreviated term as
Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James L. Jones expressed
pleasure yesterday with the status of the Corps and its improved
relations with the Navy.
Jones, who will leave his post in January to become the first
Marine to serve as NATO's supreme allied commander, cited that
assignment, the selection of Marine Gen. Peter Pace as vice
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other recent events as
evidence of the Corps' positive image among Pentagon leaders.
"I think the Marine Corps itself, as an organization, has a lot to do
with where Gen. Pace and I wound up," he said.
Jones also took note of the assignment last year of Brig. Gen.
James Mattis as the first Marine to command a Navy-Marine
amphibious force – Task Force 58 in Afghanistan. Mattis now is
commanding general of the 1st Marine Division at Camp
And he cited the choice this week of Maj. Gen. John Sattler,
commander of the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, N.C., to
lead a new multi-service task force of about 800 troops in the
Horn of Africa.
"This is much more (about) the global war on terrorism,
searching for al-Qaeda, looking for terrorist cells" than prepara
tions for attacking Iraq, the commandant said.
The task force likely will operate in Djibouti, Yemen and perhaps
elsewhere in the region.
The Horn of Africa, which is separated from the Persian Gulf by
the Arabian Peninsula, includes – besides Djibouti and Yemen –
Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Kenya.
During the Cold War, it was a flash point in the conflict between
the United States and the Soviet Union, both of which supported
governments and rebels in those countries in an effort to
undermine each other's influence in the strategically important
Decades of civil war left much of the Horn of Africa politically
unstable, and U.S. officials have expressed concern that it has
become a haven for terrorists, especially after al-Qaeda, Osama
bin Laden's terrorist network, was routed from Afghanistan last
The CIA fired a missile from a remote-controlled Predator drone
Sunday that killed six suspected terrorists in Yemen, including a
top al-Qaeda leader.
The purpose of the task force is to give Army Gen. Tommy
Franks, who oversees the region as chief of U.S. Central
Command, more time to focus on other countries in his area of
responsibility, including Afghanistan and Iraq.
Although the Marine Corps is busy with current commitments
and preparation for a possible war with Iraq, Jones said there
were no indications his Marines feel overworked.
He took note of an 18-year high in officer retention and the fact
that in just one month into the fiscal year, "we already are
approaching 50 percent of our goals in enlisted retention."
"That means they like what they're doing and are not being
stretched," he said.
Jones also was enthusiastic about the improved cooperation
with the Navy.
"I spent most of my young life fighting for Marine Corps
programs . . . fighting against the blue suits (Navy), if you will, all
the while maintaining an air of collegiality," he said with a laugh.
"We have left those days, and I'm hopeful we have left those days
He cited the agreement to integrate Navy and Marine fighter
aircraft units, Navy support for Marine missions of projecting
forces ashore from the sea and for ships and weapons designed
for those expeditionary missions.
"These are confidence-building measures that are going to
dramatically change the way the Navy and Marine Corps see
each other and work together," he said.
Jones said he is "quietly optimistic" about the future of the
Osprey program and expressed appreciation that Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has decided to let the ongoing flight
test program determine whether the tilt-rotor aircraft is suitable
for combat operations.
Rumsfeld said Monday he expected to include funds for the
Osprey in next year's defense budget, "based on the expectation,
or the hope, or the possibility at least, that it would sail through
its test program."
Jones will leave the top job in the Corps nearly seven months
early to start the normally three-year NATO tour in Brussels.
As NATO commander, Jones said, he will work to strengthen
military cooperation among member states, which he described
as already strong.
U.S.-NATO relations have been strained in the past year over the
perception that the Bush administration prefers unilateral rather
than collective action and over American demands that the
allies increase military spending.
Jones will be relieved as commandant by Lt. Gen. Michael
Hagee, commander of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp
The Knight Ridder News Service contributed to this report.