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TopRank: Lt. General James Conway

Lt. Gen. James Conway

The elite force of the U.S. Marines is poised to be led by one of its own with the President’s nomination of Lt. Gen. James Conway as the 34th Commandant.

By choosing Conway, Bush supports a man who has an impressive military career. In recent years, Conway has played an active role in bringing down the Iraqi regime, the search for weapons of mass destruction there and as commander in the battle for Fallujah.

At the same time, Conway reflects a respect for leadership and public support in the pursuit of winning wars.

Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, called Conway a “superb choice” and promised a quick confirmation.

“He has command presence, developed over years of performing in the widest possible range of Marine Corps assignments and challenges,” Warner said. “In addition, he has the vision and leadership skills necessary to further adapt the Marine Corps to meet the ever-changing security threats that face our nation, particularly in the war on terror.”

Marine Commandants typically serve about four years. The current term for General Michael W. Hagee is due to end in January.

"I tell the Marines frequently, ‘From this day forward, if you go into a pub, or a bar, or a restaurant, or a theater or any kind of gathering, you don’t have to take a second seat to anybody. You’re paying your dues right now by virtue that you have opted to serve your nation," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch a month before the Iraq war from a base in Kuwait.

Retired Marine Gen. Donald Gardner, who served as Conway’s superior officer and later with him at the Marine Corps University, went on in the article to praise his colleague and predict his future success.

"I suspect in two or three years, you may see him as one of the commanders that leads our forces around the world, heading one of the services," Gardner said. "He’s got a very bright future."

Commissioned as an infantry officer in 1970, Conway graduated with honors from The Basic School before going on to the U.S. Army Infantry Officers’ Advanced Course, the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the Air War College. He fought in Operation Desert Storm and returned to serve as President of the Marine Corps University at Quantico, Va. Currently, Conway is the Operations Director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

His personal decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon.

His mother, Martha Ruby Conway, described her son as a "soldier’s soldier and a Marine’s Marine.” Conway’s Father served in World War II.

"We raised him to work and tell the truth," Mrs. Conway said. "He is straight up and down and will tell you what he thinks. He will get his point across without raising his voice."

Conway does speak his mind, even if it’s controversial.

In April 2004 he disagreed with superiors in the handling of Fallujah. Conway told reporters that September that he opposed a Marine assault on the city, and the subsequent decision to withdraw from the area and give control to an Iraqi security force, because of the already negative feelings towards the U.S.

"We felt like we had a method that we wanted to apply to Fallujah: that we ought to probably let the situation settle before we appeared to be attacking out of revenge," he said. "Would our system have been better? Would we have been able to bring over the people of Fallujah with our methods? You’ll never know that for sure, but at the time we certainly thought so."

Conway’s nomination comes at a time of heightened debate over bringing the troops home from Iraq and just after the controversial civilian killings in Haditha last November.

Before the conflict in Iraq began, Conway stressed the key role public support has in winning wars.

At a 2005 DoD press briefing in Washington, Conway told reporters that the state of public support of the military’s presence in Iraq concerns him.

"It’s extremely important to the soldier and the Marine, the airman and the sailor over there to know that their country’s behind them," he said. "We didn’t start this fight. So I don’t know that it’s our option to simply withdraw at this point."

Photo Credit: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/sep/20/former-head-marine-corps-not-snowballs-chance-hell/

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