Experts Offer Insight into McMaster's Departure from White House

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster attends a meeting between President Donald Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office at the White House on March 20, 2018, in Washington, D.C. Getty Images
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster attends a meeting between President Donald Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office at the White House on March 20, 2018, in Washington, D.C. Getty Images

National security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster will soon see his Army career come to an end, but experts predict that future opportunities will abound for the strategic thinker and warrior scholar who left his mark on the maneuver force.

McMaster's tenure in the post ended after being on the job for a little more than a year. His departure follows President Donald Trump's dramatic ouster of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week. Trump will replace McMaster with former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton.

Those who know McMaster are not shocked by the rumors that Trump clashed with the "headstrong" three-star who carved his name into military history with his victory at the Battle of 73 Easting during the 1991 Gulf War.

"I am not surprised this happened because you have two big personalities," retired Army Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, who served under McMaster when he commanded Eagle Troop of 2nd Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, in the Gulf War, told Military.com in an interview.

"McMaster is really headstrong and you can read his face, no matter what his voice might say ... and I believe that that was a source of constant frustration and friction between the two," he said.

Davis is now a senior fellow and military expert for the military think tank Defense Priorities.

Raymond DuBois, a former under secretary of the Army, said McMaster's three-star rank put him an extreme disadvantage as national security adviser.

"We have to understand the actors in this drama," DuBois, now a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, told Military.com.

"Imagine you are H.R., you have been national security adviser and you are sitting in the situation room with the president of the United States, the vice president, secretary of state and secretary of defense. On the one hand, because you are still a serving, active-duty three-star, you are not the same rank as the other fellows at the table. ... McMaster recognized that it was time for him to step down," DuBois said.

Before accepting the national security adviser job, McMaster had built a reputation as a deep thinker and a respected combat leader.

He most recently served as director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center and deputy commanding general at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

During the Iraq War, McMaster proved ahead of other leaders when he was a colonel commanding 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Tal Afar in 2005. He stressed counterinsurgency rather than sledgehammer tactics to quell violence being carried out by Sunni militants against the city's Shiite minority.

But McMaster truly made a name for himself when he was a young captain commanding Eagle Troop on Feb. 26, 1991. His unit ran into a superior Iraqi armored force lying in wait to halt the main U.S. advance into occupied Kuwait.

Advancing through a heavy sandstorm, McMaster's nine M1 Abrams tanks and 12 M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles made contact with the large Iraqi defensive belt in the featureless desert.

His troop destroyed approximately 50 T72 Tanks and about 25 other armored vehicles in 23 minutes in what would become known as the Battle of 73 Easting during Operation Desert Storm. McMaster was awarded a Silver Star, the nation's third-highest valor award, for his actions during that short-lived conflict.

Davis remembers when McMaster took over Eagle Troop.

"The morale of the troop was in the toilet," Davis recalled. "Nobody had any confidence. We weren't doing well at all at any of our exercises, and then he came in and just radically transformed the environment. He gave everybody confidence."

McMaster did have a "fiery personality and he would explode from time to time," Davis said.

"Aside from that, he turned that unit into an exceptional unit," he added. "That was the first thing that really stood out to me was he took this rag-tag, divisive, unsuccessful organization and quickly turned us into a team and a family.

"Everybody has confidence in ourselves, we had confidence in the units on our left and right flank and we knew that we were the best trained unit out there," Davis said.

McMaster plans to request retirement from the Army this summer, according to a statement from the White House.

He had been under consideration for a fourth star, and White House officials hoped it would provide a graceful exit from the West Wing for the longtime soldier, The Associated Press reported.

McMaster, 55, is highly qualified for several four-star commands, but there are none that will be available this summer, DuBois said.

"So then you say to yourself, if you are H.R. McMaster, what do I want be when I grow up? I have had all these jobs. I have been national security adviser," DuBois said. "I can see him sitting down with his wife and his most trusted confidants and saying, 'Now is the time to take off the uniform and retire. I am still young enough to do a whole bunch of really cool stuff.' "

DuBois sees McMaster becoming the head of a university, or "as I have said from time to time, it's time to write 'Dereliction of Duty 2.0,' " he said, referring to McMaster's 1997 book "Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, The Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam."

Davis thinks McMaster's outspoken personality has worked against him in the past but will work for him in the future.

"He had a lot of enemies and a lot of people that were against him," Davis said. "But it's like hate or love with McMaster. He also has this whole legion of people who think he is the greatest thing that ever happened, and I have no doubt that he will be in tremendous demand."

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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