A former US Army Colonel -who made a funny joke during the Obama Administration concerning “boots on ground” in the war against the Islamic State- watched his post-military career with the Pentagon rise and fall within a short period of time.
In 2016, Ret. Colonel Steve Warren was asked in an interview if American troops had “boots on the ground” in Iraq as the locals attempted to combat ISIS, a fight the previous administration insisted the US had no direct-action role in.
Checking his boot in front of the camera, Warren announced that his boot was, in fact, on the ground in Iraq.
“One important item of my uniform which is in good order, serviceable and working and I’m here to tell you it is on this Iraqi ground right now,” he said.
Known for his blunt comments and humor, Warren eventually became a spokesman for the local Iraqi effort to combat ISIS, as well as similar action in Syria.
By March of 2017, Warren was encouraged to retire so he could take a civilian position working for Secretary of Defense Mattis at the Pentagon as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. By August of 2017, he would be on his way out.
According to Foreign Policy, Warren was deemed ineligible for the position due to objections within the White House.
DoD Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Dana White said that Warren’s name “was put forth for consideration as a political appointee within OSD/PA once he retired.”
“Unfortunately, the White House determined he was not a suitable candidate for the position,” she noted.
It’s unknown why Warren was suddenly cut from the team, but it may have something to do with the way Secretary Mattis conducts business. Known to make brief appearances or to surprise reporters with an unannounced presence at press briefings, Mattis’ style is much less scripted and gives the press fewer chances to over-analyze a situation or statement.
During the Obama Administration, Warren was well-liked by reporters, but not so much by the many in the Pentagon. Regularly “telling it straight” to reporters, Warren would not shy away from referring to America’s involvement against ISIS as a “combat” situation.
“We’re in combat,” Warren told reporters when Delta Force operative Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler was killed in 2015. “That’s why we all carry guns. That’s why we all get combat patches when we leave here. That’s why we all receive imminent danger pay. So, of course it’s combat.”
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