Army War College leadership passed, MG John Kem to MG Stephen J. Maranian

By Robert MartinAugust 3, 2020

In the U.S. Army War College Change of Command ceremony, the Chief of Staff of the Army congratulated Maj. Gen. John S. Kem for 35 years of distinguished Army service and for his incredible, important three years as commandant, developing the future leaders of our Army and working with the community. CSA Gen. James C. McConville acknowledged the critical leader roles that make Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Maranian qualified to excel as commandant. And he celebrated the Army War College’s contribution to national security and international allies and partners.

As of July 30, 2020, Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Maranian is the 52nd Commandant of the U.S. Army War College, having accepted responsibility by way of the traditional passing of the USAWC colors from outgoing Commandant Maj. Gen. John S. Kem to Army Chief of Staff Gen. James. C McConville and, in turn to Maranian, at the college's Bliss Hall, Carlisle Barracks, Pa.

“Today we recognize an incredible team … with 334 personnel here, 234 are faculty and academic leaders,” said McConville. “This team here makes incredible contributions not only to leadership development but also to the Army, the Joint Force and the nation -- and international allies and partners.

“It’s amazing what a difference this college makes to our international partners,” he said, on this Day of International Friendship. “Their experience here shaped how they see the world, how they see our country, and how they see our relationship.”

“The Army War College is home to some of our brightest … who are not only some of our best thinkers, but provide significant, meaningful contributions to our national security education of future leaders – and it shows every single day.

“Take a look at who came out of here. We’ve had past Chiefs of Staff, past Chairmen and as you go around the world, many of the Chiefs and the CHODS have come from here, and you’ve all had an impact on them.”

McConville described outgoing commandant Kem -- an engineer by trade and a proven combat leader, John Kem is as well an experienced educator and one of our top thinkers, he said.

“He’s an innovative thinker and has done some incredible things. Very few leaders have the ability to think like he does at the national security and enterprise level -- and he’s always been looked for better ways to deliver strategic education, and he’s done that so well,” said McConville, who noted that under Kem’s leadership, the Army Strategic Education Program has become fully operational. The College has started a new Certificate Program for professional development for leaders across the Department of Defense. “We’ve got a new academic building now, and he is responsible.”

“That not only shows leadership -- it’s when leaders are looking beyond their term when it really makes a difference,” said McConville. “Some less experienced leaders are concerned about their two years, but John’s philosophy here was, ‘How do I make this a better place for the long term? ’”When it comes to getting a new building, now under construction, and his other long-term innovative ideas for education, “that’s going to set the stage for the future,” he said.

Underscoring the Army’s commitment to People First, the Army Chief closed his remarks by recognizing the Kem and Maranian families’ commitment, side-by-side with the two Army leaders.


Outgoing commandant Maj. Gen. John Kem reminded the audience of Secretary Elihu Root’s prescient vision for the Army War College, to be an institution that is perpetual in purpose but “always changing in the individual element.”

“We live in a hyper-competitive environment -- every day across the instruments of power, globally and nationally. How do we get leaders ready? How do we get leaders to think? How many leaders have ideas that actually have impact? … What do you change? What do you amplify? Thinking and working toward that end with all the great people here -- in the school, centers and institutes and programs – is the part that I’ll miss the most,” said Kem.

Kem described an exploratory journey of the last three years with his partner, Provost Dr. Jim Breckenridge. They and faculty traveled to military peer institutions, think tanks, universities in the public and private sector and explored what others are doing, e.g., what would data analytics, technology, and educational methodologies to help people understand a very complicated world in 5-10 years? … “What do we not know? What is out there we can bring back, share and start to figure out the answers?” he posed.

“We’re empowered to innovate not just for change, but to have a real impact over time,” said Kem, recounting the ways – a truly state-of-the-art building that the class of 2023 will occupy and that will bring people together to think, learn and connect; experimental classrooms and one-button studios and the unique new Applied Communication and Learning Lab; department chairs who drive innovation over 3-5 years; the USAWC Center of Strategic Leadership’s forecasting and developing insights about how the strategic and operational come together in a headquarters; a transformed Strategic Studies Institute for research and influential ideas; the School faculty accelerating adoption of new educational methodologies; the College’s management of General Officer education; and the Army Heritage and Education Center’s digitization project that will amplify the Army story and make it accessible to the American people and researchers forever, he noted.

In 1994, the History of the Army War College was updated with a highlight, said Kem, sharing a quote: “’From the arrival in 1951 to the 1980s, there was no sharp point of divergence in the Army War College but by 1994, it was apparent and is discernible now a decade later that the withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Vietnam … was a discriminating event and led to years of restoration, reconstruction, and reform.’ So, I hope that 15-20 years from now, looking back at our collective efforts, people will say, that 2015 to 2023 was also a discriminating period … that they set the foundation for the ‘20s and ‘30s,” said Kem in welcoming Steve Maranian. “We’re so glad to have you here.”


Commandant Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Maranian, a 2013 graduate and president of his class, looks forward to this new relationship with the Army War College, he said.

“Cynthia and I are absolutely thrilled to be here back at Carlisle Barracks to rejoin the Army War College. This is a family – and we rejoin you with sincere humility and great respect.”

“Thank you for your stewardship of this institution,” he said to Kem. “Your leadership has been absolutely peerless … I know that I have huge shoes to fill.”

“To the war college team … what you do for our Army can’t be overstated. You have a huge impact not just within the institution and to the students and families here – but the breadth and depth of what you reach out with is immense.