General Mark Milley has been named by President Trump as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The current Chairman, General Joseph Dunford Jr, plans to retire in the fall of 2019.
General Milley’s military career spans more than 38 years and he has extensive leadership experience. He is a four-star general and has been serving as the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, the top position in the Army, since 2015.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the highest-ranking military officer in the country. The person in that position is responsible for advising the president, Secretary of Defense and National Security Council on military matters.
President Trump announced his decision on Twitter on Saturday, December 8. The Washington Post, citing anonymous White House sources, reported that the decision came down to two choices: Milley, and General David Goldfein, who currently serves as the Air Force Chief of Staff.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. General Milley Has Been Serving in the Military For Nearly Four Decades
General Mark Milley has an extensive military resume that includes deployments all over the globe. According to the Department of Defense, Milley’s operational deployments included:
• Sinai, Egypt: Multi-National Force and Observers
• Panama: Operation JUST CAUSE
• Haiti: Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY
• Bosnia-Herzegovina: Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR
• Iraq: Operation IRAQI FREEDOM
• Afghanistan, three tours: Operation ENDURING FREEDOM
General Milley has held multiple leadership positions. A few of those titles include:
• Commander: 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division
• Deputy Commanding General for the 101st Airborne
• Commanding General for 10th Mountain Division
• Commanding General, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command
• Commanding General, III Corps and Fort Hood
• Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Forces – Afghanistan
• Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon
General Milley was named as the U.S. Army Chief of Staff on August 14, 2015. Prior to that position, he served as the 1st Commander of U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He has earned multiple awards and decorations including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal. You can read his full resume and list of awards on the Department of Defense website here.
2. General Mark Milley is a Native of Winchester, Massachusetts & Played Football & Hockey as a High School Student
General Mark Milley was raised in Winchester, Massachusetts. The town is located about 8 miles north of downtown Boston. He attended Belmont Hill, an independent boy’s school, and graduated in 1976.
According to Wicked Local, a newspaper in Winchester, Milley played football and hockey when he was in high school. He also served on the student council. A neighbor who lived across the street, Diane Masiello, told the newspaper that she had fond memories of Milley and his family. “He and his brother were always outside relentlessly practicing hockey. But the two always went right in for dinner when their mother called. There was a never a question about him doing the right thing. He was disciplined.”
Milley went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science from Princeton University. According to his Department of Defense bio, he graduated and received his first commission in 1980. Milley also has two master’s degrees to his name. He studied international relations at Columbia University and obtained a master’s in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
Throughout his career, General Milley has never forgotten his roots. He returned to Belmont Hill in November 2015, just a few months after his promotion to Army Chief of Staff. He was given an Alumni Award and addressed the high school boys in a special address. General Milley encouraged them to give back to their communities and to value strong character. “Keep in mind your obligation to society, to others. There’s so much more to life than making a buck. The greatest satisfaction any of you will ever get is in service to others… At the end of the day, in the dark of the night, when no one is around you and things aren’t going well, it is your character that holds you together.”
3. General Mark Milley Appears Willing to Express Views Contradicting the President
General Mark Milley appears willing to express his opinions based on his 38 years in the service, even if they contradict views held by his commander-in-chief. One example of this is the debate about transgender people serving in the military.
In March of 2018, the White House issued a memo stating that transgender people would be disqualified from military service. It included a reference to a Department of Defense report that had reportedly included that there were “substantial risks associated with allowing the accession and retention of individuals with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria and require, or have already undertaken, a course of treatment to change their gender.”
In April of 2018, General Milley was asked about the impact of transgender servicemembers during congressional testimony. He stated that these soldiers did not cause any issues with unit cohesion. He stated that in the Army, there are very few transgender soldiers. General Milley said leaders monitor their units to “make sure that they are in fact treated with dignity and respect and have precisely zero reports of issues of cohesion, discipline, moral and all sorts of things.” This statement contradicts the Defense Department report.
General Milley had also discussed this issue in July of 2017, which you can see in the video embedded above. He noted that at that time, he had not received any “implementation guidance or directives” from Secretary of Defense James Mattis or from the commander-in-chief. He stressed that as a military member, he would follow the chain of command. General Milley added that every single servicemember was to be treated with “dignity and respect,” no matter what.
General Milley also joined other military leaders in denouncing the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that occurred in August 2017. The rally included white nationalists chanting anti-Semitic sentiments and carrying torches. A woman named Heather Heyer was killed when a man deliberately plowed his car into a group of counterprotesters.
President Trump at the time said there was blame on both sides for the violence. General Milley wrote on Twitter, “The Army doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks. It’s against our Values and everything we’ve stood for since 1775.” He did not mention the president or link to any statements the commander-in-chief made, but it’s a stark contradiction to the view President Trump took.
4. General Milley Appears to Have a Solid Working Relationship With Secretary of Defense James Mattis
The Washington Post cited anonymous sources within the White House who claimed that Secretary of Defense James Mattis preferred Army Chief of Staff General David Goldfein for the top job. But he appears to have a solid working relationship with General Mark Milley as well.
A former senior defense official told the newspaper that Mattis asked Milley for advice on what to do differently in Afghanistan. Mattis was reportedly discouraged that the Army was struggling to “push more soldiers into an active role supporting Afghan troop;” as a former Special Operations soldier, Milley was through to have ideas that could help change the course of the war.
During a luncheon at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in October 2017, General Milley reminded soldiers and those in leadership positions to remain ready at all times to defend the United States. He told the crowd, “Secretary Mattis, just yesterday, very clearly tasked the U.S. Army to be ready; his words were carefully chosen. So our number one task, bar none, remains readiness. Readiness for what? Readiness for war. Readiness for the intense combat of ground operations of any type, anywhere in the world. That is our task. And I can tell you that it has never been more important than it is today.”
5. General Milley & His Wife Hollyanne Have Been Married For More Than 30 Years
General Mark Milley is also a family man. He has been married to wife Hollyanne for more than three decades. According to his official Facebook page, she accompanies him on trips often to meet with troops and military spouses.
Hollyanne works as a nurse, according to the U.S. Army website. She was a critical care nurse for 18 years and now specializes in cardiovascular care in Virginia. Hollyanne also serves as a Red Cross Disaster Volunteer.
The Milleys have two adult children, Mary and Peter.