With its emphasis on its enlisted troops and its creed that every
Marine is a rifleman, the Marine Corps is the military service that
keeps the smallest ratio of brass to troops. But for a brief moment
—actually only until Wednesday—there are, for the first time, six
four-star generals in the Corps.
This picture was taken April 29th. Gen Allen retired shortly after the picture
Earlier this month [April 19], the officers gathered at the Home of
the Commandants at the Marine Barracks Washington, the only time six
active-duty four star generals have gathered together, according to the
service. Except for a handful of five-star admirals and generals in
American history, four-stars is the highest attainable rank in the
military. And for the Marines it is unusual to have four or five, much
The Corps thinks of the gathering as historic. But for the generals,
the April get-together was simply a reunion of a group of men who have
worked with each other and off for four decades.
“It was a bunch of friends who started out as second lieutenants,” said Gen. James Mattis. “We never thought we would end up as four stars. It is the surprise and twists and turns of life.”
The Marine Corps can count on having two four stars at any one time: the commandant, currently Gen. James Amos, and the assistant commandant, currently Gen. John Paxton. In addition, the Marines currently have four joint force billets: the current and former Afghanistan commanders, Gen. Joseph Dunford and Gen. John Allen, the head of Southern Command, Gen. John Kelly, and the former head of Central Command, Gen. Mattis.
With Gen. Mattis due to take off his uniform in June and Gen. Allen
formally retiring this week, the time of six four stars won’t last long.
And with the entire military poised to shrink with continuing budget
cuts, it may not happen again for a long while.