WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama nominated Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. on May 5 to serve as the 19th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva to serve as the 10th vice chairman.
During an announcement in the White House Rose Garden, the president said that among military leaders, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the principal military adviser to him and his national security team.
Members of that team, including Defense Secretary Ash Carter, were in the audience.
“In recent years, I have been deeply grateful for the service of our chairman, Gen. Marty Dempsey, and our vice chairman, Adm. Sandy Winnefeld. Marty and Sandy will complete their terms later this year,” Obama said.
To Dempsey and Winnefeld, the president said he’s relied on their advice, counsel and judgment as the nation has navigated the urgent challenges of recent years. Obama also thanked their families for decades of support.
“From ending our combat mission in Afghanistan to leading the international coalition to destroy (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), conducting humanitarian operations from typhoon relief in the Philippines to fighting Ebola in West Africa, and strengthening our security alliances from Europe to Asia at every step, you have been critical to our processes, and I have valued not only your counsel but your friendships,” Obama said.
Introducing his choice to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Obama called Dunford one of the military’s most admired officers.
Dunford has served as commandant of the Marine Corps since Oct. 17, 2014.
Dunford is a Boston native, the son of a retired Boston police officer and Marine veteran of Korea, the president said, adding, “Joe followed in his father’s footsteps and has distinguished himself through nearly 40 years of military service.”
Dunford has commanded Marines in the field from the platoon level to a Marine expeditionary force. During the invasion of Iraq, he led Marines in the charge to Baghdad, Obama said.
According to a post on MarinesBlog, the official Marine Corps blog, it was in Iraq that he earned the nickname “Fightin’ Joe,” while serving in 2003 under Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis and leading Regimental Combat Team 5 during the initial invasion.
“I have been extraordinarily impressed by Joe, from the situation room where he helped to shape our enduring commitment to Afghanistan, to my visit last year to Bagram, where I saw his leadership firsthand,” the president said.
“I know Joe. I trust him. He’s already proven his ability to give me his unvarnished military advice based on his experience on the ground,” Obama said.
Under Dunford’s steady hand, the president added, Afghanistan achieved key milestones, including the taking the lead for their own security, historic elections and the drawdown of U.S. forces, all of which set the stage for the end of the U.S. combat mission there.
Obama thanked Dunford and his wife, Ellyn, for their continued service to the nation before introducing his choice to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. Paul Selva.
Selva is a pilot and a commander with 35 years of military service.
“As leader of Air Mobility Command, he earned a reputation as a force for change and innovation,” Obama said. “I understand that when it was time to deliver the final C-17 (Globemaster III) to the Air Force, Paul went to the cockpit and helped fly it himself.”
As head of U.S. Transportation Command, the president said Selva has been committed to partnerships that are a core principle of the national security strategy, “whether it’s supplying our joint force around the world in operations large and small, to supporting and keeping safe our diplomats and embassy personnel overseas.”
And because Selva served as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s military adviser for the first years of Obama’s presidency, he grasps the strategic environment in which U.S. forces operate, the president added.
“He understands that our military, as powerful as it is, is one tool that must be used in concert with all the elements of our national power,” Obama said, thanking Selva and his wife, Ricki, who also served in the Air Force, for taking on this next chapter of their service together.
Carter said in a statement released May 5, that Dunford has been an infantry officer at every level, and that Selva has been an innovator throughout his career.
“They’re exemplary leaders,” Carter added, “and they both have the strategic perspective and operational experience to help guide our military and advise the president at a time of much change in the world.”
Also in a statement issued May 6, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said he’s known Dunford for nearly half his 39 years of service.
“He is a phenomenal, combat-tested leader and a man of integrity, courage and humility,” Dempsey said.
“Gen. Selva is also a leader of competence and character,” the chairman added. “He has a tremendous understanding of the global security challenges we face and experience at every echelon of command, most recently leading our global transportation network.”
As Obama concluded his remarks, he told Dunford and Selva that the nation continues to call on its armed forces to meet a range of challenges.
“We have to keep training Afghan forces and remain relentless against al-Qaida. We have to push back against ISIL and strengthen forces in Syria and build moderate opposition in Syria,” he said.
The nation also must stand united with its allies in Europe and keep rebalancing its posture as a Pacific power, and continue to invest in new capabilities to meet growing threats, including cyberattacks, Obama added.
“As commander in chief, I’ll be looking to you for your honest military advice as we meet these challenges,” he said.