Lt. Gen. Robert Neller, the current head of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command (COMMARFORCOM), has been tapped to become the Marine Corps’ top general.

If confirmed by the Senate, Neller will replace Gen. Joseph Dunford, the administration’s nominee for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Lt. Gen. Robert Neller was nominated July 1 for the position of Marine Corps Commandant. Photo: USMC
Lt. Gen. Robert Neller was nominated July 1 for the position of Marine Corps Commandant. Photo: USMC

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has known Neller since they worked together in a senior integration group focused on providing urgent needs to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said during his announcement of the nomination at a Pentagon press briefing. That was back when Carter was deputy defense secretary and Neller was director of operations (J3) on the joint staff, a position Neller held from January 2011 to July 2012.

His passion for working with Marines was evident, Carter said.

“We traveled together in theater and around this country, where I saw Bob’s outstanding relationship with our troops,” he said. “He loves them, he relates to them, and they light up when he’s talking to them.”

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, praised Neller’s experience.

“I, too, have complete trust and confidence in Lt. Gen. Bob Neller to lead the United States Marine Corps,” he said. “He knows the entire joint force, and so he’ll be a great teammate on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

Neller became commander of  COMMARFORCOM in Norfolk, Va., exactly one year ago, on July, 1 2014. In that role, he oversaw the deployment of Marines all over the world. He concurrently serves as commander of Marine Corps Forces Europe.

A combat veteran, Neller deployed to Iraq from 2005 to 2007 as deputy commanding general  for operations for I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward). He has also served in operations in Somalia and Panama.

He previously commanded Marine Corps Central Command, was president of the Marine Corps University in Quantico, Va., and took the role of director of operations division, plans, policies at Headquarters Marine Corps in Arlington, Va.

Originally from East Lansing, Mich., Neller joined the Marine Corps in 1975 after graduating from the University of Virginia.