The sun shone bright, the American flag snapped in the wind and the Marine bands brass sections sparkled on a perfect fall day for the Marine Commandant change of command of ceremony from Gen. James Conway to Gen. James Amos. Defense Secretary Robert Gates challenged Amos, the first aviator to be named commandant, and the Corps to "make the intellectual investment" and chart their future.
"They need to preserve both their maritime soul and the hard-won counterinsurgency skills they’ve developed during this past decade. Doing this will demand an intellectual investment similar to that of Marine Corps forebears who developed novel amphibious warfare concepts in the years leading up to World War II," he told the audience of Marines, Medal of Honor recipients, senators, friends and supporters
In what looked like his first hint at just what the Marines will become, Amos addressed the crowd. “We’ve always said we’d be most ready when the nation is least ready,” Amos said. “Our nation still needs a force that is most ready when the nation is least ready and, ladies and gentlemen, that will be my focus as commandant for the next four years.”
In the context of Gates' comments, and assuming Gates and Amos coordinated their remarks, it sounds very much as if this means the Marines will try to keep a core amphibious capability and institutionalize their role as a second land army, but one that is at the ready, flexible and useful when bigger, more powerful forces may not be.
There was one interesting tidbit from Conway's valedictory when he was presented with a medal for his service as commandant. The presidential citation mentioned his combat deployment of the V-22 Osprey as one of several key achievements of his tenure. We're sure proponents and opponents of the aircraft will seize on this.