Commandant of the United States Marine Corps: Who Is Joseph Dunford?
On June 5, 2014, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. was named the next commandant of the Marine Corps, taking over from Gen. James Amos, for whom Dunford was formerly the assistant commandant.
Dunford was born September 14, 1955, in Boston. His father was a long-time Boston police officer and Marine veteran of the Korean War who’d fought in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. Dunford moved with his family from Boston to nearby Quincy at age 12. He attended Boston College High School, graduating in 1973 and went to college at Vermont’s St. Michael’s College, graduating with a degree in political science in 1977.
Dunford went immediately into the Marines, attending Officers’ Candidate School and then being assigned as a platoon leader, company commander and in 1981 as an aide to the commanding general of the III Marine Expeditionary Force.
In 1982, Dunford was assigned to Marine Corps headquarters in Washington for three years. During this time, Dunford earned an M.A. in government from Georgetown University, graduating in 1985.
After that, Dunford held progressively more responsible jobs in the Corps, often alternating between leadership positions with Marine fighting units and staff jobs in Washington and elsewhere. Also during this time Dunford earned another graduate degree, this one an M.A. in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University near Boston.
In 2001, Dunford was assigned to the 1st Marine Division and was assigned to lead the 5th Marine Regiment. He later was named the division’s chief of staff and assistant commander. Dunford served 22 months in Iraq during this period. It was in Iraq that he got his nickname, “Fighting Joe.” Also while there he participated in the operation mounted to rescue prisoner of war Jessica Lynch from Iraqi custody, although it would turn out that by the time of the rescue, Lynch was being well taken care of at a hospital.
Dunford returned to Washington in 2005 to serve as director of the Operations Division of the Plans, Policies and Operations staff. He eventually became vice director for operations for the Joint Staff. In 2007, he was nominated to get his second star as a major general, but instead was bumped to three-star rank as a lieutenant general as deputy commandant for Plans, Policies, and Operations.
Dunford in 2009 was appointed commander of I Marine Expeditionary Force and of Marine Corps Central Command, but after less than a year was made assistant commandant under Amos.
Dunford was tapped in 2012 to go back into the field as the commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Because Gen. John Allen, the previous occupant of the job, was under investigation connected to the Gen. George Petraeus probe, Dunford’s nomination was fast-tracked and he took over the job in February 2013. One of his bigger challenges in Afghanistan, as the U.S. forces were drawn down, was the orderly withdrawal of equipment from the land-locked country. Dunford served in Afghanistan until his nomination as commandant.
Dunford and his wife, Ellyn, have three grown children.
To Learn More:
Mass. Native Guides War In Afghanistan To A Close (by Brian MacQuarrie, Boston Globe)
Dunford, Commander in Afghanistan, Is Picked to Lead Marine Corps (by David S. Joachim, New York Times)
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