Nearly than forty years elapsed between the appointment of J. Lawton Collins as the first Vice Chief of Staff and the approval of an insignia to be worn by personnel serving as aides to the holder of the office: they wore the same insignia as the aides serving other Generals until 1987. What makes this long gap intriguing is that the insignia that finally was authorized is almost a verbatim replica of the flag for the office of the Vice Chief, which itself was approved in later 1949.

Appointed with the advice and consent of the Senate, the Vice Chief of Staff is tasked with the administrative oversight of the Army Staff, allowing the Chief of Staff to devote attention to his duties as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Nominees are not required to have reached the four-star rank of General, but are appointed to that grade on a temporary basis while holding this office (i.e., they do not vacate the grade they held at the time of appointment).

Of the three dozen Generals appointed as Vice Chief of Staff, nearly a third (ten) have later gone on to serve as Chief of Staff of the Army. Two of them, Generals Lyman L. Lemnitzer and John W. Vessey, later became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During Lemnitzer’s tenure as Chairman of the JCS, he submitted a controversial proposal called “Operation Northwoods” that advocated the U.S. should carry out “false flag” attacks against its own citizens and military forces that would publicly be blamed on the Castro regime in Cuba. The general public was not aware of Lemnitzer’s controversial proposal until 1997, when it was released by the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board.

Arguably the most famous General to serve in the Vice Chief office was Alexander Haig, who was named as President Richard Nixon’s Chief of Staff and later served as Secretary of State during Ronald Reagan’s first term.

Aides to the Vice Chief of Staff are appointed to two-year assignments; while the Vice Chief of Staff appointment isn’t limited to a fixed term, past Vice Chiefs have generally served between one to three years.

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