Former Fort Hood top officer named to key military post

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced on Wednesday that President Barack Obama has selected a career infantry officer with extensive experience in Iraq and Afghanistan and a naval officer who has commanded a variety of surface ships and submarines to lead the Army and Navy in coming years.

Gen. Mark Milley, 57, and Adm. John Richardson, 55, have been selected to serve as the chief of staff of the Army and the chief of naval operations, respectively, Carter said. Their selection requires confirmation by the Senate. They will replace Army Gen. Raymond Odierno and Adm. Jonathan Greenert, whose traditional four-year stints leading their services expire this year.

In a statement at the Pentagon, Carter called Milley a “warrior and a statesmen” and Richardson a “go-to officer” for many challenges the Navy has faced in recent years.

Richardson, a 33-year veteran, has served as the director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program since late 2012.

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“He has the ability to disagree without being disagreeable,” said retired Adm. James Stavridis, who has known him for about 20 years and serves as dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. “He can tell you the tough thing, but do it in the way to make you understand the background.”

Odierno said in a statement that Obama has chosen a “phenomenal leader” in Milley, a Princeton graduate and the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“General Milley is an experienced, combat-tested and caring leader,” Odierno said. “I have known General Milley for many years, have served with him in Iraq and watched him in Afghanistan. I am confident that he is the right leader to lead our Army into the future.”

If confirmed, Milley and Richardson will join a rapidly changing brain trust at the Pentagon. Carter assumed his office only three months ago. Obama, meanwhile, has said he intends to nominate Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford as his new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Air Force Gen. Paul Selva as the new vice chair.

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Milley and Richardson share a recent history of managing some of their service’s most sensitive issues.

Milley was the top officer at Fort Hood, Texas, in April 2014 when a soldier opened fire on colleagues, killing three and wounding at least 12 others before turning the gun on himself. More recently, he has overseen the criminal investigation of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier who was recovered last year after five years in captivity. Bergdahl was charged in March with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

Richardson was tapped to investigate the Sept. 16, 2013, mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard by a defense contractor who killed 12 people and injured at least three others before police killed him in a shootout. The admiral found that if erratic behavior displayed earlier by the shooter, Aaron Alexis, had been reported, the violence could have been prevented.

More recently, Richardson led a probe of Navy personnel accused of cheating on nuclear proficiency exams, prompting at least 34 people to be tossed from the service.