EL TORO — Maj. Gen. Royal N. Moore Jr., the top Marine aviator in the Persian Gulf War and commander of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, will be promoted to lieutenant general and given the largest field command in the Marine Corps, it was announced Wednesday.
In August, Moore, 56, will step down as head of the El Toro-based Marine aircraft wing to take over the 60,000-member Fleet Marine Force Pacific, headquartered in Hawaii at Camp H. M. Smith, near Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu.
Maj. Gen. Harold W. Blot, 52, currently commander of El Toro and other Western air bases, is expected to replace Moore as the head of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Blot has already been promoted from brigadier general to major general, but his new assignment has yet to be announced.
Moore received official word of his promotion late Tuesday followed by a congratulatory telephone call from Gen. Carl E. Mundy Jr., the new commandant of the Marine Corps. Moore's new command and his third star had to be approved by President Bush and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. The U.S. Senate is expected to routinely confirm him in late June or early July.
Moore said the Pacific force position was his first choice, adding that "it keeps me in the cockpit and second of all it keeps me in command," something that aviators want to hold on to as long as possible.
Asked if his role in the Persian Gulf helped him get the promotion, Moore said the Marines look at total service record, but "probably if we lost that (war), maybe I wouldn't be going anywhere."
Also Wednesday, the Pentagon announced that Maj. Gen. Robert B. Johnson will replace Lt. Gen. Walter E. Boomer as commanding officer of the Camp Pendleton Marine base and commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. The Pentagon did not announce Boomer's next command.
Boomer, 52, took over the expeditionary force last August, a week before it was deployed to the Persian Gulf in Operation Desert Shield. He was the top Marine in the Gulf.
Johnson, 53, who served two combat tours in Vietnam, is now serving as Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf's chief of staff at the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla.
The Pentagon also announced Wednesday that Marine Lt. Gen. Joseph P. Hoar would replace Schwarzkopf as head of the Central Command, which has responsibility for much of the globe, including the Persian Gulf. Schwarzkopf is retiring this summer.
The 3rd Aircraft Wing, with air stations in El Toro, Tustin, Camp Pendleton and Yuma, Ariz., is the largest in the Marine Corps. It consists of 16,000 Marines and nearly 500 aircraft, ranging from the small, deadly Cobra helicopter to the sophisticated, supersonic F/A-18 Hornet fighter.
Moore was the top Marine aviator during the Gulf War. His aircraft, flying out of Bahrain and bases in Saudi Arabia, were among the first to strike in predawn assaults Jan. 17 after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces failed to withdraw from Kuwait by the Jan. 15 deadline.
Known as a no-nonsense commander, Moore has flown more than 300 combat missions, most of them in Vietnam. He flew 18 missions over Kuwait and Iraq during the Gulf War, saying he decided to fly into combat rather than remain in the relative safety of the command headquarters because "you lead from the front."
"The way I choose to know my pilots is to fly with them. There was no way I could send those guys out unless I did it myself," Moore said in a recent interview. He is married to the former Patricia Vacca. They have three children.
Moore's promotion to head of the Pacific Fleet Marine Force will mark the first time in eight years that an aviator has been in charge of one of the two Marine forces. He will have command of a balanced blend of air and ground forces, including Marines and their equipment from Camp Pendleton, Twentynine Palms, Hawaii and Japan and aviators from El Toro, Tustin, Yuma, Ariz., Okinawa and Iwakuni, Japan.
The Marines' two fleet forces, one in the East and one in the West, are equipped for offensive amphibious deployment. They are the largest battle groups in the Marine Corps, consisting of at least a division, an aircraft wing and one force service support group. The Pacific force is the largest with two divisions, two wings and two force service support groups.
Blot, 52, served as assistant commander of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and in May was named temporary commander of western air bases to replace Brig. Gen. Wayne T. Adams, who was reassigned to Quantico, Va., because of an investigation by the Marine Corps inspector general into allegations that Adams used military planes for personal use.
After flying combat missions in Vietnam, Blot was selected to be among the first to be aboard a manned orbital space laboratory and later was a test pilot at the Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent River, Md. He also served as manager of the Navy-Marine Corps V-22 Osprey project, considered one of the Navy's largest aviation research and development programs.
Brig. Gen. P. Drax Williams, currently legislative assistant to the commandant and director of Marine Corps public affairs in Washington, is expected to replace Blot as commanding general of western air bases.
A graduate of Cornell University, Williams, an F-8 Crusader pilot, flew more than 300 combat missions in Vietnam and later became an AV-8 Harrier pilot and then a squadron commander.
In 1985, Williams became commander of Marine Aircraft Group 12 in Iwakuni. Two years later he transferred to the Naval Space Command at Dahlgren, Va., as deputy commander. He became a brigadier general in 1989. He is married and has two daughters.