San Diego Union Tribune

April 23, 2005
    
Marines' Pace named to head the Joint Chiefs

By Otto Kreisher
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON – President Bush made military history yesterday by nominating Marine Gen. Peter Pace to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Pace, who was tested early as an infantry officer in some of the most vicious fighting in Vietnam, would be the first Marine to serve as the nation's top military officer and the president's chief military adviser.

"The first thing America needs to know about Pete Pace is that he is a Marine," Bush said. "To the American people, 'Marine' is shorthand for 'can do.' And I'm counting on Pete Pace to bring the Marine spirit to these new responsibilities."

If confirmed by the Senate, Pace would replace Air Force Gen. Richard Myers as chairman, after serving 3˝ years as the vice chairman under Myers. In that role, Pace has worked closely with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and, like Myers, has never publicly expressed any differences with the tough-minded secretary.

At a ceremony in the White House, Bush also announced the nomination of Navy Adm. Edmund Giambastiani to replace Pace as vice chairman. The former nuclear submarine commander has served for nearly two years in the dual roles of commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command and as NATO's supreme allied commander for transformation. Giambastiani gained his current post after two years as Rumsfeld's senior military assistant.


Gen. Peter Pace
"It just reflects the administration's preference for known quantities, people who are team players ... who can help with what the secretary wants," said Robert Work, a defense analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

"I would anticipate that there's not going to be any particular changes because of this," because both officers know Rumsfeld and his agenda "and have pretty much subscribed to it," said Work, a retired Marine colonel.

"Rumsfeld, he added, "is trying to extend and cement what he's been trying to do since he came in."

In his current command, Giambastiani played a key role in transforming the military. His selection suggests that Rumsfeld will continue his emphasis on changing the military from its ponderous Cold War formations into a leaner, more mobile organization.

"This is a means by which Rumsfeld can attempt to consolidate his transformation agenda," Work said.

Both officers are highly regarded in Congress and are expected to have no trouble winning Senate confirmation.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., and the senior minority member, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., quickly praised the choice of both Pace and Giambastiani.

Marines at Camp Pendleton were excited about Pace's nomination.

Pace first saw combat as a platoon leader in Vietnam assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, which is headquartered at Camp Pendleton.

He returned to Camp Pendleton in the mid-1970s and served a third time at the base in the early 1980s to command the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines.

"I think it is great," said Chief Petty Office Frank Dominguez, a corpsman. "It's historic. He is laying down historic footprints."

Some of the Marines said that having one of their own as the top military man in the land might help the Corps.

"It's about time," said Lance Cpl. Stephen Goldschmidt, 24, from Drexel Hill, Pa. "It's good to have a Marine that has input into what Marines do. We are kind of in an occupational stance in Iraq, which is really not something that we are used to doing. At least he'll understand what we need out there. He might help out on the budget and supply side."

The outgoing chairman, Myers, flew combat missions in Vietnam as a fighter pilot and later became the Joint Chiefs' vice chairman. He took over the chairmanship five weeks before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Bush called Myers "one of the most outstanding chairmen our nation has ever had" and praised his leadership in the war on terrorism.

The president said he was confident that "the great work" that Myers started "will continue under the leadership of General Pete Pace."

He called Pace's life "the story of the American journey," noting that Pace is the son of an Italian immigrant and grew up in Brooklyn and New Jersey, later earning a nomination to the Naval Academy and graduating in 1967. He also attended Harvard and earned a master's degree in business administration at George Washington University.

As a new second lieutenant in 1968, Pace took over a Marine infantry platoon during the fighting to recapture Hue, one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War.

To this day, he keeps with him a photo of Lance Cpl. Guido Farinaro, the first Marine who died under his command, and meets occasionally with the surviving members of his platoon.

At a reception he hosted at the Marine Barracks here last year, Pace had five wounded veterans of Iraq as the guests of honor. Introducing them, the four-star general struggled to control his emotions as he recalled the young Marines who served and suffered with him 36 years ago.

As a brigadier general, Pace led Marines twice in Somalia during the humanitarian effort that turned deadly. He was commander of the U.S. Southern Command before assuming the No. 2 Joint Chiefs post.

Pace, 59, said he was confident the military could overcome the difficult challenges in the future because "we have the world's best men and women serving in our armed forces. . . . And I'm proud, and I thank you, Mr. President, for giving me this opportunity to continue to serve them and our commander in chief."

Bush, after stumbling badly over the pronunciation of Giambastiani's name, drew a laugh from the crowd by finally referring to him as "Admiral G," as he is called by his colleagues.

The choice of the two officers had been expected because both had demonstrated their compatibility with Rumsfeld, who recommended their nominations.

Staff writer Rick Rogers contributed to this report.

»Next Story»