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Obama selects Marine general as head of Southern Command

The Americas Post - Yes, U.S. Marine Generals carry their own rifles. Photo Credit: USMC

President Barack Obama has chosen a Marine to run U.S. military operations in Latin America and the Caribbean out of the Southern Command in Miami.

The new Southcom leader is Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John F. Kelly, who enlisted in 1970 and was followed by both sons to the Corps as well.  The youngest, 1st Lt. Robert Michael Kelly, was killed on patrol in Afghanistan in 2010.

The Pentagon announced Kelly’s promotion in a brief statement Friday afternoon.  Pending the required Senate confirmation, there was no immediate word on when he would succeed Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, the current commander.

Over six feet tall and in his 60s, Kelly is currently senior military advisor to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, served multiple deployments in Iraq and worked as a Defense Department representative on Capitol Hill.   He commanded troops in Fallujah, Iraq, and at one time  had tens of thousands of Americans and Iraqi soldiers under his command.  A 1976 graduate of the University of Massachusetts, he joined the Marines before going to the university, served for two years as an enlisted infantryman out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., and left as a sergeant.

Sources were unable to confirm whether Kelly previously served in the Caribbean and Latin America.  More than 1,000 Defense and other government employees work out of Southcom headquarters in Doral, which he has been chosen to run, on a range of Defense projects from humanitarian relief operations to the detention center at Guantánamo.  Southcom also runs regional training exercises that team up U.S. forces with foreign armies and navies, which senior Pentagon officials have pointed to as the future of a  downsized U.S. military force across the globe.