Trump ex­pected to nom­i­nate Army’s Mil­ley for Joint Chiefs

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - HE­LENE COOPER

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is ex­pected to name Gen. Mark Mil­ley, the Army chief of staff, to be the next chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top-rank­ing mil­i­tary po­si­tion in the coun­try, ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said Fri­day.

Trump teased the de­ci­sion in re­marks to re­porters at the White House on Fri­day, say­ing that he would make an an­nounce­ment at the Army-Navy foot­ball game to­day in Philadel­phia.

“I can give you a lit­tle hint: It will have to do with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and suc­ces­sion,” the pres­i­dent said.

Trump, who made sev­eral staff change an­nounce­ments Fri­day, met two weeks ago with Mil­ley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Gold­fein, the two men be­lieved to be in con­tention to suc­ceed Gen. Joseph Dun­ford of the Marines, whose term as chair­man ex­pires next au­tumn.

It is un­usual for a suc­ces­sor to the top mil­i­tary job to be cho­sen so early, but the pres­i­dent has long been known to have a pref­er­ence for Mil­ley, an ebul­lient of­fi­cer who is well known in the halls of the Pen­tagon and at Army bases around the world. That pref­er­ence for Mil­ley was at odds with Trump’s de­fense sec­re­tary, James Mat­tis, who is be­lieved to have wanted Gold­fein for the job.

But Trump has in the last few months been over­rid­ing Mat­tis on a num­ber of is­sues, most re­cently the de­ci­sion to send U.S. troops to the south­ern border with Mex­ico to counter car­a­vans of mi­grants mak­ing their way north from Cen­tral Amer­ica. But Pen­tagon of­fi­cials said that Mat­tis, a re­tired Ma­rine, was per­fectly will­ing to work with Mil­ley, a grad­u­ate of Princeton Univer­sity who also holds a mas­ter’s de­gree in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions from Columbia Univer­sity.

Mil­ley has a long mil­i­tary pedi­gree with some of the Army’s leg­endary units, like the 82nd Air­borne Divi­sion and the 10th Moun­tain Divi­sion. He has served mul­ti­ple com­bat de­ploy­ments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Be­fore he was ap­pointed Army chief in May 2015, Mil­ley was head of Army Forces Com­mand at Fort Bragg, N.C., where he de­cided to charge Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with de­ser­tion for walk­ing off his post in Afghanistan in 2009. Bergdahl was cap­tured and held by the Tal­iban for five years and was re­leased last year in ex­change for five Tal­iban pris­on­ers held at the mil­i­tary prison at Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba. He was dis­hon­or­ably dis­charged last year.

A Bos­ton Red Sox fan, Mil­ley car­ries him­self with the kind of earthy man­ner that screams Fen­way Park. He does not shy away from the oc­ca­sional rib­ald story, al­though he does some­times pep­per con­ver­sa­tions with talk of “lit­tle en­gines that could” and red ca­booses and other well-worn ref­er­ences to in­spi­ra­tional sto­ries.

At the same time, any­one talk­ing to him knows where they stand; he is di­rect, an ap­proach that played well in Afghanistan, where he was the No. 2 U.S. com­man­der. He was pop­u­lar among the troops he com­manded and got on well with Afghan mil­i­tary of­fi­cers and civil­ian of­fi­cials, even when he pushed back against some of their wilder claims about the war.

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