Thiessen to lead Marines in Pacific


POSTED: Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lt. Gen. Duane Thiessen, deputy Marine Corps commandant for programs and resources at the Pentagon, will be the next commander of Marine Corps forces in the Pacific.

He will replace Lt. Gen. Keith Stalde, who a spokesman said will probably retire. Thiessen's nomination is subject to Senate confirmation.

Thiessen was commanding general of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing on Okinawa when a CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter from Kaneohe crashed on the campus of Okinawa International University—an incident that heated already simmering tensions between the Marine and Japanese civilian community.

Fighting for control with a broken tail rotor, the three-man crew avoided a soccer field where children were playing and landed on the university campus—about 330 yards short of the fence line of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station. The rotor blades struck the southern wall of the university's administration building before the helicopter crashed and burned.

No civilians were injured in the Aug. 13, 2004, incident.


The crew's injuries were serious; the pilot and crew chief suffered fractured vertebrae, and the co-pilot had a crushed left hand and multiple fractures.

The university president later called the presence of the air station an “;unacceptable threat”; and urged its “;prompt closure.”;

The unpopular base on Okinawa likely will continue to be an issue for Thiessen as he commands the 74,000 Marines and sailors ashore and afloat from his headquarters at Camp Smith.

Thiessen, an AV-8 Harrier jump jet pilot, began his career in May 1974 after graduating from Pittsburg State University in Kansas.

His commands include Marine Attack Training Squadron 203 at Cherry Point, N.C., in 1991; Marine Aircraft Group 13 in Yuma, Ariz., in 1999; the 1st Wing on Okinawa in 2004-2005; and U.S. Marine Forces Korea in 2005-2007.

He assumed his current duties on May 9, 2008.