The national commander is the chief executive officer and official spokesman of The American Legion, with full power to enforce provisions of the organization’s constitution, bylaws and resolutions. Each national commander serves a one-year term, after which a new leader is elected at the national convention. Five national vice commanders who serve different regions are also elected at the national convention each year.
James E. Koutz of Boonville, Ind., was elected national commander of The American Legion on Aug. 30, 2012, during the organization's 94th National Convention in Indianapolis.
Koutz entered the United States Army in August 1969. He attended basic training at Ft. Knox, Ky., and Advanced Infantry Training at Ft. Ord, Calif. In January 1970 he reported to Vietnam and served an extended tour of duty with Co. C 169th Engineer Battalion. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Specialist 5 in March 1971 and quickly joined The American Legion. He is a member of Boonville Post 200 where his father, George, was a World War II veteran and a past commander of the post. Jim was honored as a life member of his Post in 1991 and served as its post commander for nine years.
Koutz retired from the Amax Coal Company in 1995 after 21 years of service. He was appointed by the Warrick County Commissioners in January 1995 as service officer for the Warrick County Veterans Affairs office. The governor of Indiana appointed him commissioner of the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2005 where he served as president of that commission in 2007. In January 2009 he was appointed to serve four more years.
Koutz has held elected and appointed offices in The American Legion at the post, county, district, department and national levels. As Indiana State American Legion Commander, he achieved an all-time high membership during his tenure in 1990-1991. At the national level, he served on the Foreign Relations Commission and as chairman of both the Economics and Legislative Commissions. Additionally, he is a member of the Citizens Flag Alliance and also served on the Veterans’ Planning and Coordinating Committee.
He was awarded the State of Indiana Council of the Sagamore of the Wabash in 1991 by former Gov. Evan Bayh and recognized for outstanding community achievement of Vietnam veterans by President Jimmy Carter. He received the Elks Distinguished Citizenship Award from the Grand Lodge of Order of the Elks and Boonville Elks Lodge No. 1180.