The Pentagon tapped Lt. Gen. Robert Neller, an infantry officer who served in Iraq from 2005 to 2007, to serve as the next commandant of the Marine Corps on Wednesday.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter praised Gen. Neller’s work during a 40-year career that has included leading troops in a war zone as deputy commanding general for operations of 1 Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq.
“Bob is a warrior, he’s a leader, he’s a statesman,” Mr. Carter told reporters at the Pentagon.
Mr. Carter said he first worked with Gen. Neller when he served as director of operations for the joint chiefs from January 2011 to July 2012. The secretary praised Gen. Neller’s interactions with troops when the two traveled to the war zone together.
“He loves them, he relates to them and they light up when he talks to them,” Mr. Carter said. “I know he will be a magnificent commandant for the Marines serving all over the world.”
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said Gen. Neller’s previous assignment in the joint chiefs’ office will make him a great asset to the current team of service leaders.
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“I too have complete trust and confidence in Lt. Gen. Bob Neller to lead the United States Marine Corps,” Gen. Dempsey said. “He knows the entire joint force, so he’ll be a great team mate on the joint chiefs of staff.”
The current Marine Corps commandant, Gen. Joseph Dunford, was nominated earlier this year to take over as chairman of the joint chiefs when Gen. Dempsey retires this fall. Gen. Dunford’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee is set for July 9.
Gen. Dunford, Gen. Neller and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus joined Mr. Carter for the announcement in the Pentagon briefing room.
During Gen. Neller’s time commanding troops in Iraq, he was placed in charge of troops in Anbar providence, which has become a key area in the fight against the Islamic State since terrorist forces took control of Ramadi and Fallujah. Additional U.S. troops were recently sent to Taqaddum air base to act as advisers to Iraqi forces in the region preparing to retake the key city.
Gen. Neller has served as the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command since July 2014. He was commissioned as a Marine Corps officer after graduating from the University of Virginia in 1975.
The commandant of the Marine Corps is a position that needs to be confirmed by the Senate. The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on Gen. Neller’s nomination in coming weeks.
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Rep. Tim Walz, Minnesota Democrat and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said he looked forward to working with Lt. Gen. Neller in his new role.
“I congratulate Lt. Gen. Neller on this well deserved promotion,” Mr. Walz, a veteran, said. “He has shown strong leadership throughout his career and that’s good because he’ll have big shoes to fill replacing Gen. Dunford.”