Behind the Cover: How a commandant’s son escaped controversy to become a battalion commander


Marine Corps Times’ cover story this week dives deeply into an issue that has rubbed a number of Marines raw, following the recent publication of news stories about a pending inspector general complaint filed against Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and several members of his staff.

The complaint, among other issues, questioned whether the commandant showed preferential treatment to then-Maj. James B. Conway, the son of retired Commandant Gen. James T. Conway, as the Marine Corps investigated Marines caught on video urinating on the remains of dead Taliban fighters.

The complaint, filed by Maj. James Weirick, a staff judge advocate with Marine Corps Combat Development Command, notes that top Marine officers decided to release James B. Conway from all legal holds last year, enabling him to be promoted to lieutenant colonel and take command of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Meanwhile, other members of his old unit — 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. — were kept on legal hold, unable to take new assignments or be promoted. Lt. Col. Christopher Dixon, the battalion commander at the time, still is, more than a year after the investigation was launched.

Weirick filed his complaint as the trials for several members of the 3/2 scout sniper unit implicated continue to play out.

No one has accused Lt. Col. Conway of any wrongdoing, but a series of emails and memos obtained by Marine Corps Times show senior Marine officials contradicting Conway’s own report to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service while deciding to cut him loose from the investigation. They said he and another officer in the unit, then-1st Lt. Edward Leslie, were not in contact with the scout snipers or have influence over them. However, Conway told investigators he watched the July 27, 2011, operation that day, and eventually handled the bagged bodies of the insurgents when they were transported back to the base for intelligence collection.

Weirick’s complaint will certainly be brought up as the scout sniper cases play out. It also will be tracked by the many advocates who think senior leaders want to throw the book at the scout snipers, a decorated group that braved enemy fire repeatedly and is credited with more than 200 insurgent kills on their deployment, which spanned February to August 2011.

The story is on newsstands now. It’s also posted here as Marine Corps Times Prime content.


About Author

I'm a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.


  1. This is the media doing its job. The more attention on this problem, the better. Under the guise of “upholding standards” and “accountability” the UCMJ is again being used to crush some Marines who have created an inconvenient problem, but a favored Marine involved in the same problem walks away. Anyone who has spent any time around the Corps has seen it, but here is evidence that it is practiced at the highest level. The Corps is a place of extremes, and with many leaders, you either get a warrior or you get a bureaucrat. There is no warrior in the Commandant’s residence now. Mattis was a warrior, Gray was a warrior, and Puller was a warrior. The ones that actually become generals are few and far between. I think it is time for some “accountability” at the top. It would improve the culture of the Marine Corps, and would no doubt be “karma by example”. Semper Fi from a former Captain.

  2. As much as this puts a needed spotlight on the Corps’ leadership, nothing will come of it, except that Weirick’s career will be cratered, Conway will become a general, and everything will be swept under the rug. The Corps is full of abject failures of “leaders” and they still get command, promotions, and recognition. The Corps had better understand that there are numerous “cancers” within its ranks and they need to be cut out, because it is getting worse each day

  3. He’s the former commandant’s son, no way in hell are they gonna fry him, he’s slated to be our future commandant. He’s just a guilty as the idiots who pissed on the bodies and than posted it on the internet. There all a bunch of rocks if you ask me. And, Jim Amos what a disgrace, what a poor excuse for the leader of our Marine Corps. Im so glad Im not serving in that bullshit organization anymore.

  4. Give me a break on

    Do you have any idea of the scrutiny that these Generals deal with? Think about this- why would the CMC give a former CMC’s son a “pass” when this would be just the kind of publicity he would end up getting? These guys aren’t that stupid. Clearly none of you work under the magnifying lens like these guys do. AND- the book should be thrown at Marines who are dumb enough to urinate on dead bodies and taint the Marine Corps with their dumb decisions. This is yellow journalism at it’s best. None of you know the whole story. But everyone loves a “scandal!”

  5. There is no doubt that at the GO level there were discussions specifically related to getting then Major Conway a pass. Any reason plausable would suffice. The best thing to do would be for Gen Conway, Gen Amos, and LtCol Conway to publically address the issues NOWinstead of hiding behind legalise and closed doors. Clearly they are not demonstrating the virtues taught at TBS.

  6. Of course there were discussions- just like there would be discussions about anyone in that position. Also he was the XO! Lt. Col. Conway told the truth about everything he saw it did. He was not the only officer released after the investigation. GO’s discuss things that are international incidents!

  7. Master Guns on

    A can of worms. Acts by GO’s, likely unknown by Maj Conway, have not only put him in the spotlight, but likely may have unintentionally ended his career. ( The Law of Unintended Consequence) Will be difficult to survive this as a JAG wants answers and GO’s will be deposed under oath. The tangled webs we weave. Anyone who has spent 20 years in the Corps not having their head in the sand is well aware of the grotesque politics

  8. I know LtCol Conway and supported his command when he was a Major and the RS CO Portsmouth, NH and I was the Contact Team Officer for the 1st MCD. I’ve about had it with people that think they know what the hell they are talking about and hypothesizing how he received preferential treatment. This Officer never once in the many, many times I was in his presence ever even mentioned his father, never implied he was a Conway, took the same crap all the other CO’s and Command Group members have to take when your on recruiting duty. His father, then our Commandant never once snooped around, interfered with our District Commander’s intent or operation, and don’t think anyone who was at the District would argue that I was one of the most read-in Marines in that District. So now, every family that continues to encourage their sons and daughters to follow the family tradition is now issued a scarlet letter when the enlist or commission??? I served in the grunts with LtGen Stackpole’s enlisted son, he received no comfort then, and if you read the facts and have brain matter in-between your ears you’ll see that it was LtCol Conway that set the record straight. Before people run their pie-hole take a step back and ask yourself- did the late Lt. Kelly get special privilege while he faithfully served, fought, and died in Afghanistan?! Marines, use some tactical patience and maturity. I love to run my mouth too, but it”s generally to support the truth; not add folly to media driven hype trying to turn chicken crap into chicken salad…

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