Gen. Kelly began his military career in 1970 when he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was discharged as a sergeant in 1972, after serving in an infantry company with the 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Following graduation from the University of Massachusetts, he was commissioned an Officer of Marines.
As an officer, General Kelly served in a number of command, staff, and school assignments and also served as the Special Assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, in Mons, Belgium. Much of the next two years was spent deployed fighting in Iraq. He then returned to Headquarters Marine Corps as the Legislative Assistant to the Commandant. Promoted to Major General, he returned to Camp Pendleton as the Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward). The command deployed to Iraq in early 2008 for a year-long mission as Multinational Force-West in Al Anbar and western Ninewa provinces.
After rotating home and being confirmed as a Lieutenant General he commanded Marine Forces Reserve and Marine Forces North and then served as the Senior Military Assistant to two Secretaries of Defense, Messrs. Gates and Panetta, before being nominated for a fourth star and command of the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM).
During his time in command of SOUTHCOM he worked closely with the FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency as well as Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and the Department of Homeland Security, particularly in dealing with the flow of drugs, people and other threats against the U.S. that flow along the trans-national criminal networks into the U.S. from the south.
Less than a year into retirement, General Kelly was confirmed in 2017 as the fifth Secretary of Homeland Security. After six months, he was selected to serve as White House Chief of Staff, a position he held until January 2019.
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