Marine Corps’ Japan-based force gets new 3-star leader

The Marine Corps’ Japan-based force finally has a new general in charge, after a senator’s hold on military nominations delayed a fresh leader’s arrival in the post for months.

Lt. Gen. Roger Turner took over the strategically important III Marine Expeditionary Force from Lt. Gen. James Bierman in a ceremony Friday at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.

III Marine Expeditionary Force, which is headquartered in Okinawa and has troops stationed throughout the Indo-Pacific, is a central focus of the Corps’ ambitious modernization initiative, aimed in large part at countering the Chinese military. One of the service’s three main forces, it is composed of approximately 27,000 Marines.

“We will train tirelessly, build lasting partnerships, and remain ready to respond at a moment’s notice,” Turner said, according to a Marine news release. “III MEF’s presence here is the linchpin of regional stability and a testament to our enduring dedication to uphold the principles of freedom and justice, no matter the challenges that lie ahead.”

The White House in April 2023 nominated Turner to pin on a third star and helm that force, but the nearly 10-month-long refusal by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., to approve hundreds of senior military nominees through the typical process of unanimous consent kept Turner’s promotion in limbo.

Tuberville, who held up the confirmations in protest of a Pentagon policy covering leave and travel costs for troops seeking abortions, relented in December 2023 amid pressure from his colleagues.

Tuberville drops holds on more than 430 military promotions

Turner is a prior-enlisted Marine who received his commission in 1989 and went on to command troops in combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan, according to his official biography.

As a general officer, he has led the Capabilities Development Directorate, the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, 1st Marine Division and Marine Corps headquarters’ operations division.

Bierman’s next assignment is as deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations. Turner filled that role in an acting capacity following the retirement of Lt. Gen. David Furness in July 2023.