General Michael W. Hagee, who was recently named 33rd Commandant of the Marine Corps, is regarded as a cool and professional operator who envisions greater emphasis on the role of enlisted marines.
"He sizes up problems rationally, doesn't get flustered and is a good innovative thinker," said Adm. Dennis Blair, a retired head of the Pacific Command and a Naval Academy classmate of General Hagee.
After spending his first year at the University of Texas in an NROTC unit, General Hagee received a Congressional appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. He graduated with distinction with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in 1968, a year which produced more general officers in the Marine Corps than any other class. He also holds a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College. He is a graduate of the Command and Staff College and the U.S. Naval War College.
A native of Fredericksburg, Tex., and son of a retired Navy Chief who fought in World War II, General Hagee is a soft-spoken Vietnam Veteran who has led marines from the platoon and company level up to his prior post commanding 45,000 marines at Camp Pendleton, Calif., where he led the First Marine Expeditionary Force.
His background includes a number of diverse operational experiences across the globe. From 1992 to 1993, General Hagee was liaison officer to the American special envoy to Somalia, Robert Oakley, working with the American military and the various Somali factions. In 1995 to 1996, he worked for John M. Deutch, first as senior military assistant when Mr. Deutch was deputy defense secretary and later as executive assistant, when Mr. Deutch became the director of central intelligence.
"This guy is John Wayne with remarkable brains and tremendous integrity," Mr. Deutch said.
On January 13, 2003, General Michael W. Hagee relieved General James L. Jones as the new Commandant of the United States Marine Corps. The "Passage of Command" ceremony was held at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., with the Honorable Gordon R. England, Secretary of the Navy and the Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense as keynote speakers.
Hagee addressed the crowd, noting, "no one doubts that when Marines arrive they are ready to fight and we are going to win." He read an e-mail from the wife of a Marine private first class who was heading off with the 1st Expeditionary Force, in which she said: "It is an honor to serve my country by supporting my husband. This is the job he loves and I will support him as long as he chooses."
One particular area Hagee has addressed since taking the post is empowering the enlisted Marine, a practice set forth by Gen. James L. Jones, now the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. His focus is on a better-trained and better-educated staff of noncommissioned officers to help decentralize command and place greater responsibility on this group of Marines.
"Within the Marine Corps it's less and less about your rank, (and more) about your ability to do the job," Gen. Hagee said.
"We need to continue to focus on both training and education - and there is a difference. Training focuses on techniques and procedures, education focuses on understanding."
General Hagee's personal decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal with palm, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with two Gold Stars, Bronze Star with Combat "V", Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with one Gold Star, Navy Achievement Medal with one Gold Star, the Combat Action Ribbon, and the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal.
Image Credit: By U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer's Mate Johnny Bivera. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons