Major. Gen. W. Lee Miller, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) commanding general (left), and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, the International Security Assistance Force commander, salute during the Regional Command (Southwest) Transfer of Authority ceremony here on Feb. 28. (Sgt. Bryan Peterson / Marine Corps)
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The new top commander in southwestern Afghanistan will lead Marine forces there with considerable combat experience — including service during the 2004 battle for Fallujah, Iraq.
Maj. Gen. W. Lee Miller took over for Maj. Gen. Charles “Mark” Gurganus as the commanding general of Regional Command Southwest on Feb. 28. He oversees II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) and Regional Command Southwest, with headquarters at Camp Leatherneck, the Corps' largest base in Afghanistan.
Here's what you need to know about the new top Marine in Helmand province.
Miller's first name is Walter, but he has gone by his middle name, Lee, for years. Most Marine Corps publications identify him by his first initial and middle name.
Unlike some of his Marine predecessors, Miller commands a force that numbers just 6,000 U.S. service members — down from about 21,000 at its peak in 2011. His job will focus on the continued drawdown in forces and the transition to Afghan National Security Forces overseeing security in their country.
An additional 6,000 other coalition forces also are there under his command, mostly from the United Kingdom and the Republic of Georgia.
Miller said at his change of command ceremony that he closely tracked Gurganus' decisions for nine months before taking over in Afghanistan.
“I know what's been going on,” he said, according to a Marine Corps news release. “I know where you're headed, and I know how good you are. We will continue to press.”
Miller has deployed to countries across the world. Among his more unusual assignments, he served as a company commander with 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., during a deployment with Marine Forces Panama.
The force operated in the Central American country from 1988 to 1990, as a political crisis unfolded and U.S. forces invaded in 1989. Miller spent additional time in Panama from 1995 to 1998, when he served as a liaison there for Marine Corps Forces South.
As a colonel, Miller led the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, out of Okinawa, Japan, through Operation Phantom Fury, in which the Marines who pushed through the city of Fallujah, Iraq, experienced some of the fiercest urban combat the U.S. has seen in decades.
He earned a Bronze Star with “V” device during the deployment for showing “dynamic direction, keen judgment and inspiring devotion to duty,” according to his citation.