Aerospace Engineering Graduate James McConville Sworn in as Army’s Top Officer

August 12, 2019

A Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech is the new chief of staff of the U.S. Army.

Gen. James C. McConville took over as the Army’s top officer August 9. He replaces Gen. Mark A. Milley, who was confirmed in July as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

McConville earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Georgia Tech in 1990. A decorated helicopter pilot, McConville is the first aviator to serve as the Army’s chief.

“Armed with a master’s in engineering to go with decades of flying and maintaining helicopters, he brings a unique understanding of how to operate and support complex weapons and equipment,” said Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. “In this respect, no senior officer is better prepared to lead the Army as we undertake what will be a massive and, yes, risky and costly transformation towards more advanced weapons and war-fighting approaches.”

McConville has served as the Army vice chief of staff under Milley, where he already has been leading those modernization efforts. It’s work he said he has been well prepared for, in part, thanks to his graduate studies.

“Georgia Tech is a tremendous school of higher learning, and it helped me as a leader to think critically, innovate and solve the most difficult problems. Georgia Tech also taught me the power of technology and to challenge the status quo,” McConville said. “The practical knowledge I gained helped me find tangible ways to overcome challenges while expanding my sense of what is truly possible if we work as a team and don't limit our creativity.”

McConville recalled sending his first email — using a dial-up modem — while he was on campus, an interesting inflection point for the man who noted at the change of responsibility ceremony that the Army “cannot be an industrial age Army in the information age. We must transform all our industrial age processes to be more effective, protect our resources, and make better decisions.”

At Georgia Tech, McConville played on the club hockey team and celebrated the birth of his first son. (That son and his two siblings are now all Army officers themselves.) McConville praised the professors he studied under in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering, especially Daniel Schrage and Dimitri Mavris.

“They were great mentors and coaches, and very committed to the development of their students,” he said.

“Even when Gen. McConville was a master’s student, we knew he would go far,” said Mavris, a Regents Professor and also McConville’s brother-in-law. “Throughout his distinguished career, he has demonstrated an exemplary level of commitment and service to our country. We are confident he is the best man for the job and that he will excel at leading and preparing the Army for the future.”

McConville’s career includes stints commanding the 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, where his aviators played a decisive role in the battle of Fallujah in Iraq. Later, he became the longest-serving division commander in Army history when he led the 101st Airborne Division on multiple combat tours over three years.

“McConville is one of the most courageous and thoughtful officers I have ever served with,” Milley said. “Jim’s blend of battlefield experience, both in the Middle East and in Washington, made him the perfect officer to take over as chief. He has the drive, the background and the vision to make the Army even better.”

Gen. James McConville, right, greets a soldier from the 4th Infantry Division in Laghman Province, Afghanistan, in October 2018. (Photo: Spc. Markus Bowling, U.S. Army)

Gen. James McConville, second from left, with his family during a promotion ceremony for his son, Capt. Ryan McConville, in his office at the Pentagon. McConville was sworn in as the Army's 40th chief of staff Aug. 9. (Photo: Spc. Dana Clarke, U.S. Army)

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