John Otto: Supporting the Corps


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LtCol. John M. Otto, US Army

November 2002

DEVENS, MA – U.S. Army Lt. Col. John M. Otto may not have been commissioned in the Corps, but he certainly understands and supports the Marines around him. He’s studied extensively at Quantico and uses those experience to help all of the military in his community. As Commander of the innovative Devens Reserve Forces Training Area, Lt. Col. Otto has many opportunities to use that experience.

The Colonel was born in New Mexico and raised primarily in Arizona. In 1981 he received his commission upon completing his bachelors at the University of Arizona, where he studied Political Science. It was there that he met his wife, Kristi, with whom he has three children.

He’s spent the bulk of his career in the 0.8% of the Army that is Special Forces. He has also served in Intelligence and Information Operations capacities. His biography confirms that he has attended nearly every training course available to an Officer.

And with all these ingredients is built an unusual circumstance: “I was more comfortable at the Marine Command and Staff College than any other Army Officer course,” the Colonel remarks. He finished the College in 1996, the only Reserve Officer in the 18 Army Officer class, including one National Guard Officer.

“I was so comfortable with them. They’re warriors which is the culture I grew up in.” The Colonel explained that Marine Officer leadership training revolves around, “knowing the difference between what’s important and what’s not – leadership has everything to do with that.”

Another matter separating America’s infantries is qualifications for commissioning. He reports that the Army is demanding of it’s leaders but flexible in the initial criteria, for purposes of increasing the population. “The Marine Corps has the luxury of commissioning the Lieutenants that they need. They can atrite in their Officer producing process.”

Lt. Col. Otto completed his Master’s degree at Quantico, writing his thesis on media and the military. Such liaison skills would come in handy at his present assignment.

Today he commands a base with tenants from four branches of the military at this central Massachusetts post. Formerly Fort Devens, some 3,300 acres have been sold to the state for corporate development with the exception of a core 426 acres for reservist’s facilities. The post still maintains another 4,837 acres in an adjacent property. While he reports that Devens is a national model for Base Realignment and Closure procedures, he finds himself often communicating resolves for its neighbors.

“Part of the job of an installation Commander is to facilitate good relations with those outside the gate. I’m the face of the base so that the 1st Battalion 25th Marines and other occupants can do what they’re here to do.”

But the Colonel acknowledges his Marine Corps experience lets him see his Marine reservists in clearer light. “I think it has a lot to do with my years at Quantico,” he confides.