Jonathan Scott Gration is a retired Major General of the United States Air Force, who worked as a policy advisor to President Barack Obama. On March 18, 2009, Gration was named, and currently serves, as the United States Special Envoy to Sudan. President Obama announced his intent to nominate General Gration as United States Ambassador to Kenya on February 10, 2011. His nomination was transmitted to the United States Senate on February 14, 2011.
Gration grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where his parents worked as missionaries[lets hope some of their faith rubbed off on him]. The first sentence he ever spoke was in Swahili, and he has been a Swahili speaker his entire life.During the Congo Crisis in the early 1960s, his family was evacuated three times and became refugees.After his family returned to the United States, he studied at Rutgers University, where he enlisted in the ROTC program and earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He earned a master’s degree in national security studies from Georgetown University in Washington in 1988.Upon graduating from Rutgers, his “low draft number” motivated him to join the United States Air Force in September 1974.While serving, he “sometimes took leaves of absence to work on village projects in Uganda and elsewhere.”After initial pilot training, Gration trained as an instructor, and instructed trainees on both the T-38 and F-5, reaching the rank of Captain. In 1980, he worked for two years as an F-5 instructor in Kenya, following which he was selected as a White House Fellow and spent a year assisting Dr. Hans Mark, the Deputy Administrator of NASA.
Returning to flight service, he trained on the F-16, and then spent two years as an instructor and flight commander, being promoted to Major. In December 1985 he was posted to USAF Headquarters in Washington to advise on international political and military affairs in the Office of Regional Plans and Policy. During this time, he received a Master of Arts in National Security Studies from Georgetown University.From January 1988 he attended the Armed Forces Staff College for six months, then was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and appointed to a staff position in 6th Allied Tactical Air Force in Izmir, Turkey. In September 1990, he returned to flying service, as an instructor pilot and operations officer for the 512th Fighter Squadron, and in August 1991 he was appointed Chief of Safety for the 86th Fighter Wing, both based at Ramstein AB, Germany. During this period, he also flew combat missions supporting Operation Provide Comfort.
From June 1992 he spent a year studying at the National War College, followed by two years of staff duties in Washington, including a six-month period as an Executive Officer to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and as a planner for the National Security Council.In mid-1995, now promoted to Colonel, he returned to flight service, and that June took up command of the 4404th Operations Group (Provisional) in Saudi Arabia. He held command until July 1996, and was in command of the group at the time of the Khobar Towers bombing. In August 1996, he was transferred to command the 39th Wing in Turkey, and held the post for two and a half years, overseeing the start of Operation Northern Watch, enforcing the no-fly zone over northern Iraq. In mid-1998 he was transferred to command 3rd Wing in Alaska, and held command until January 2000. In October 1999, he was promoted to Brigadier-General.
Through 2000 and 2001 he was Deputy Director for Operations (J-39, responsible for information operations) in the Joint Staff in Washington – as a result of which he was in the Pentagon when it was hit onSeptember 11, 2001 – and then spent a year and a half as Director of Regional Affairs for the Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for International Affairs; during the last six months of this period, January to June 2003, he was promoted to Major-General and commanded Joint Task Force-West during Operation Iraqi Freedom.In August 2003 he was appointed Assistant Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for International Affairs, and in June 2004 the Director, Strategy, Plans, and Policy Directorate of United States European Command.In the course of his career Gration recorded more than 5,000 flying hours, including 1,000 hours of combat and combat support time in 274 combat missions over Iraq. He was awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Legion of Merit, as well as the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and twenty nine other decorations.
After retiring from the Air Force, General Gration served as CEO of Millennium Villages, an organization dedicated to reducing extreme poverty. He then joined the Safe Water Network where he helped to provide safe water to vulnerable populations in India, Bangladesh, and Ghana. In January 2009 it was speculated that he would be nominated to be the 12th administrator of NASA, replacing Michael Griffin. Gration voted for George W. Bush in 2000. In 2006, he traveled to Africa on a five-nation, fifteen-day, fact-finding tour, accompanying Senator Barack Obama as an “African expert”.He later endorsed Obama’spresidential campaign, citing that Obama had the “judgment, wisdom, courage, experience, and leadership capability that we desperately need.”In 2007, the Obama campaign “began sending Gration out on the stump . . . in an effort to improve the inexperienced senator’s image on national security.”According to Obama foreign policy advisor Denis McDonough, Gration was “considered one of Obama’s three top military advisers, along with Richard Danzig, the former secretary of the Navy during the Clinton administration, and Gen. Merrill McPeak, former Air Force chief of staff.”