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Marine takes over top post in military

Pace faces crises in Iraq, recruiting

WASHINGTON -- Marine General Peter Pace took over yesterday as the military's top leader, facing an unpopular war in Iraq, recruitment shortfalls at home, and the possibility of an expanded role in domestic disasters.

At Pace's swearing-in, several Marines who have served with the Vietnam veteran said he would give President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld honest counsel as the military tries to reshape itself to battle the war on terrorism.

But some critics said they were concerned that as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pace, 59, would march in the footsteps of his predecessor, General Richard Myers, and loyally tout the administration's defense strategy.

''General Myers has been known to gloss over the realities in Iraq, beating the drum about where we made progress," said Caroline Wadhams, national security analyst at the Center for American Progress, a liberal group.

At an emotional swearing-in ceremony at Fort Myer in nearby Arlington, Va., President Bush said he will look to Pace to build on the work started by Myers, who leaves the military saying he will spend more time with his family.

Pace, 59, is the first Marine to be named chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the second man to move from vice chairman to chairman. His leadership abilities will be tested as he leaves his four-year post as vice chairman to lead a military stretched thin by conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and -- in the aftermath of devastating hurricanes Katrina and Rita -- could be asked to take on an expanded role in natural disasters.

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