Hagel would be 5th Pentagon chief with enlisted time

WASHINGTON — When President Barack Obama declared that his defense secretary nominee, Chuck Hagel, would be the first former enlisted man to lead the Pentagon, he seemed to overlook four previous defense chiefs who served part of their military years as enlisted men.

William J. Perry, who served as defense secretary from 1994-97, was in the Army’s enlisted ranks from 1946-47 and served in Japan as a member of the American occupation force, according to a biography on the website of Stanford University, where he is affiliated with the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

Perry was given an honorable discharge from the Army, then was commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Stanford and served in the Army Reserve from 1950-55 as a second lieutenant.

According to a Pentagon historical office’s biographical sketches of all 23 men who have served as defense secretary since the position was created in 1947, three others served in the enlisted ranks and later became commissioned officers — Melvin Laird in the Navy and Elliot Richardson and Caspar Weinberger in the Army.

So Hagel would be the only defense secretary who ended his military career in the enlisted ranks — he served in Vietnam as a sergeant in 1967-68 and was wounded twice — but one of several who spent time at those ranks.

When Obama announced his selection of Hagel at the White House on Jan. 7, he said Hagel’s selection as defense secretary would be “historic.”

“He’d be the first person of enlisted rank to serve as secretary of defense, one of the few secretaries who have been wounded in war, and the first Vietnam veteran to lead the department.”

Asked about Obama’s statement, the White House spokeswoman for Hagel’s confirmation process, Marie Harf, said Obama was correct because Perry and the other three who initially served in the enlisted ranks later became officers.

“There’s a huge difference between servicemen who start off enlisted and become officers, and those who are always only enlisted,” Harf said, noting that Hagel is in the latter category. “You’re defined by how you end in the military.”

Many other secretaries of defense served previously as military officers without prior service in the enlisted ranks, including Donald H. Rumsfeld (Navy), Robert M. Gates (Air Force), and Leon E. Panetta (Army).

More in Local News

Ian Terry / The Herald Westbound cars merge from Highway 204 and 20th Street Southeast onto the trestle during the morning commute on Thursday, March 30 in Lake Stevens. Photo taken on 03302017
Pay a toll on US 2 trestle? 10,000 say no on social media

A GOP lawmaker’s chart shows theoretical toll rates of up to $6.30 to cross the trestle one way.

Firefighters come to the rescue and give mom new stroller

Donations to the Good Neighbor Program covered the $143.20 cost.

February trial set for suspect in deadly Marysville shooting

There had been questions about Wayne Alpert’s mental health.

Fatal car crash reported on Highway 92 near Lake Stevens

The 3 p.m. accident and investigation stopped traffic in both directions near Machias Road.

Motorcyclist killed in crash had high level of THC

A motorcyclist had more than eight times the legal limit… Continue reading

Police: Driver threatens pedestrian, ends up in drug bust

Meth, cocaine and heroin were found in his car, along with a loaded pistol and cash, police say.

Son arrested for hitting father on head at Marysville home

The father grabbed a metal rod and struck his son in the head, too. Both needed medical treatment.

Cheering families welcome Kidd, Shoup after 6 months at sea

“I get back Daddy back today,” said one homemade sign at Naval Station Everett.

Lynnwood 15-year-old charged in killing of Everett woman

He told police that he and four other teens intended to rob the victim’s son, who was also shot.

Most Read