Marine Corps Fetes USO's Tilelli
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 6, 2000 Retired Army Gen. John H. Tilelli says he considers himself lucky twice over. He's had the privilege of serving his country for 37 years, he said, and now he will serve America's service members as head of the USO.
Tilelli, who retired Jan. 31, became president and chief executive officer of the United Service Organizations' worldwide operations March 1. During an April 5 ceremony at the Marine Corps Barracks here, he pledged to provide soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines "the best quality of life support" they can get.
"I am committed to that, and I will continue to do that just as my predecessor did," Tilelli said. His USO predecessor, retired Marine Commandant Gen. Carl Mundy, was on hand for the tribute.
The current commandant, Gen. Jim Jones, presented Tilelli with a Distinguished Service Medal, recognizing the Army general's service during his three-hatted tour in South Korea as commander-in-chief of the U.N. Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea from July 1996 until his retirement.
The Marine Corps saluted Tilelli on behalf of the president, the secretary of the Navy and all those who served under Tilelli's command. Jones said the Corps especially wanted to honor the Army general because Marines made up about 40 percent of his Korea command.
The award citation lauded Tilelli as "a warfighter, diplomat and consummate professional" who improved theater operations as well as the combat readiness of military forces throughout the Republic of Korea.
"The warrior who stands before you today would have preferred a much more modest, quiet lunch -- perhaps at a flag mess, a handshake, maybe a Polaroid picture… ," Jones noted, turning to the retired officer wearing a dark business suit standing at attention on the parade field. "But, General Tilelli, the Marine Corps would have none of that where you're concerned."
Jones said Tilelli had impressed the Marines with his dedication and understanding of how to combine the best qualities of all the services to prepare for joint operations in the event of war.
The general is "a true warrior," the commandant told his Marine Corps and USO guests. The senior Marines who worked for him "will tell you to a man that this general is a Marine's soldier in every sense of the word."
Tilelli said any credit due goes to the military men and women who served under his command. He praised the Marines, in particular, as "key and essential" to the defense of the Republic of Korea.
"I could always count on the Marines to carry their load, and to carry more," he said. When tasked, Marine Corps leaders would always say, "We can do that. What else do you want us to do?"
The Marine Corps has three core values, Tilelli said, honor, courage and commitment. "I thank each Marine here today, and thank each Marine in the force, for those values and for living those values each and every day. They truly epitomize the values of our nation."
The retired Army general said he and Mundy recently visited Marine recruits who were completing basic training by going through the Crucible at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Tilelli said he could see in their eyes that "they were ready to go the extra mile for our nation."
Tilelli, who was raised in Holmdel, N.J., is a 1963 graduate of Pennsylvania Military College, now named Widener University. He received a degree in economics and was commissioned an armor officer.
He earned a master's degree in administration from Lehigh University in 1972 and is a 1983 Army War College graduate. He also holds honorary doctorates in business management from Widener and in law from the University of Maryland.
He served two tours in Vietnam, four in Germany and three in the Pentagon. His combat tours include assignments as a company commander in Vietnam and as commander of the 1st Cavalry Division during the 1991 Gulf War.