WASHINGTON – President Bush named Marine Gen. Peter Pace (search) the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing Air Force Gen. Richard Myers.
If confirmed by the Senate, Pace would become the first Marine to become the nation’s most senior military officer.
"For the American people, 'Marine' is shorthand for can do and I'm counting on Pete Pace to bring this spirit to these new responsibilities," Bush said at the White House.
Pace is now vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (search) and would replace Myers, who is retiring this year after four years on the job, during which he oversaw the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Praising his "wisdom and determination," Bush said Pace would help with the mission of transforming the armed forces "so we can defeat today's enemies while preparing ourselves for military challenges we will face as this new century unfolds."
The president also praised Myers for being "able service over four decades, and his tireless dedication to duty and country."
For his part, Pace thanked Bush for his "trust and faith in me."
"This is an incredible moment for me," Pace said. He said the promotion was "exhilarating," but also added, "I know the challenges ahead are formidable."
Pace was born in Brooklyn, N. Y., and raised in Teaneck, N.J. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy (search), he received his commission in 1967. The next year, he was sent to Vietnam to fight, serving first as a rifle platoon leader and later as an assistant operations officer.
His military career has included postings in Washington, Camp David, Camp Pendleton, Camp Lejeune, Thailand, South Korea and Japan.
Pace's personal decorations include: Defense Distinguished Service Medal, first oak leaf cluster; Defense Superior Service Medal; the Legion of Merit; Bronze Star Medal with Combat V; the Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Meritorious Service Medal with gold star; Navy Commendation Medal with Combat "V"; Navy Achievement Medal with gold star; and the Combat Action Ribbon.
Bush also said he was nominating Navy Adm. Edmund Giambastiani Jr. (search) as deputy Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Giambastiani, 56, was Rumsfeld's senior military assistant before being named commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command in 2002.
After stumbling over Giambastiani's name several times, Bush dubbed him "Admiral G" to laughter.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.