General John F. Kelly, Semper Fidelis

General John F. Kelly, Semper Fidelis

By Dialogo
November 21, 2012


Over three and a half decades, General John F. Kelly has served in numerous positions in the U.S. Marine Corps, in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Legislative Affairs: in war and peace with combat tours during the Gulf War and most recently in Iraq.

On November 19, the headquarters of the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Doral, Florida, celebrated the formal Change of Command ceremony, where General John F. Kelly became SOUTHCOM’s 22nd Commander and took charge for General Douglas Fraser, who retired from the position with an impressive legacy of service.

General Kelly was born in 1950 in Boston, Massachusetts, where he grew up. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1970, and after serving in an infantry company with the 2nd Marine Division, in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, he was discharged as a sergeant in 1972 to attend college.

Following his graduation from the University of Massachusetts in 1976, he returned to the 2nd Marine Division as a second lieutenant, and was commissioned as a Rifle and Weapons Platoon Commander, Company Executive Officer, Assistant Operations Officer, and Infantry Company Commander.

Eventually, sea duty followed in Mayport, Florida, where he served aboard aircraft carriers USS Forrestal (CV-59) and USS Independence (CV-62).

In 1980, then-Captain Kelly attended and graduated from the U.S. Army’s Infantry Officer Advanced Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. After graduating, he was assigned to the Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C., serving there from 1981 through 1984, as an assignment monitor. Kelly returned to the 2nd Marine Division in 1984 to command a rifle and weapons company. A few years later, upon his promotion to Major in 1987, he served as the battalion’s operations officer.

That same year, Major Kelly was transferred to the Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, serving first as the head of the Offensive Tactics Section, Tactics Group, and later assuming the duties of the director of the Infantry Officer Course. After three years of instructing young officers, he attended the Marine Corps Command and Staff College and the School for Advanced Warfare.

When he completed duty under instruction, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and assigned as Commanding Officer, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, of the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California.

Holding this command position for two years, Lieutenant Colonel Kelly returned to the East Coast in 1994 to attend the National War College in Washington, D.C. He graduated in 1995, and was selected to serve as the Commandant’s Liaison Officer to the House of Representatives, on Capitol Hill, where he was promoted to Colonel.

In 1999, Colonel Kelly served as the Special Assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, in Mons, Belgium.

He returned to the United States in 2001, and was assigned to a third tour of duty at Camp Lejeune as Assistant Chief of Staff G-3 with the 2nd Marine Division.

In 2002, Col. Kelly served again in the 1st Marines Division, this time as Assistant Division Commander. He spent most of his two-year assignment deployed in Iraq, where he was promoted to Brigadier General in March 2003. By mid April, he took command of the newly formed Task Force Tripoli, and drove it north from Bagdad, into Samarra and Tikrit.

From 2004 to 2007, his next mission was as Legislative Assistant to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Michael Hagee. In January 2007, Brigadier General Kelly was nominated for Major General and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on September 11, 2007.

Major General Kelly returned to Camp Pendleton as Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward). In February 2008, he assumed command of the Multinational Force-West, in Iraq. After a year, in February 2009, he returned to the United States and was promoted to Lieutenant General. In October 2009, he assumed command of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve and Marine Forces North.

In March 2011, Lieutenant General Kelly was commissioned as Senior Military Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Leon E. Panetta.

After being confirmed by the Senate on July 26, 2012, Lieutenant General Kelly was honored with a fourth star on November 19, which earned him a promotion to the rank of General. The Marine Corps now has five four-star generals and SOUTHCOM has a new Commander.



Congratulations to General Frase for his legacy as head of the command.
Welcome to General John Kelly for the appointment to direct a command of great importance for the Western Hemisphere, but, particularly for Latin America.
!!!I wish you success!!!
Congratulations to General Kelly, the best of success! I had the honor of meeting then Brigadier General Kelly at the annual John Basilone parade in Raritan N.J.I found him warm responsive and truly a United States Marine.
Congratulations Sir on your Fourth (4) Star and your command.
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