Kelly nominated to be next SOUTHCOM commander
Published: January 27, 2012
WASHINGTON — Marine Gen. John F. Kelly has been nominated to become commander of U.S. Southern Command, which encompasses 31 countries in Central and South America.
If confirmed, Kelly, who currently serves at the Pentagon as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s senior military assistant, would replace Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser at SOUTHCOM, a command that deals with a range of security issues including drug trafficking, Marxist insurgencies and leftist regimes with ties to Iran and Russia. Panetta also nominated Kelly, a lieutenant general, to receive a promotion to the grade of general.
Originally from Boston, Kelly enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1970 and was discharged as a sergeant in 1972, according to his official Defense Department biography. After graduation from the University of Massachussetts in 1976, he returned to the Marines as an officer, serving in a range of capacities including rifle and weapons platoon commander and later, battalion operations officer. After graduating the National War College in 1995, he reported for duty on Capitol Hill as the Commandant’s Liaison Officer to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Starting in 2002, Kelly served as commander of the 1st Marine Division, deployed to Iraq for much of his two-year assignment. He later took command of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), serving as commanding general of Multinational Force-West in Iraq in 2008 and 2009. Kelly then commanded Marine Forces Reserve and Marine Forces North until assuming his current role at the Pentagon.
In 2010, Kelly’s son, 2nd Lt. Robert M. Kelly, 29, was killed by a landmine in Afghanistan. In a March 2011 Washington Post profile that coincided with his nomination by to senior military assistant, he spoke passionately about what the nation owes its warriors:
“If anyone thinks you can somehow thank them for their service and not support the cause for which they fight — our country — these people are lying to themselves. ... More important, they are slighting our warriors and mocking their commitment to this nation.”