TopVet: General David Petraeus

David Petraeus

With more than one year under his belt as commander of military operations in Iraq and a main architect of the “surge,” General David Petraeus has been chosen to head the U.S. Central Command (Centcom), the regional theater that includes Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I recommended him to the president because I am absolutely confident he is the best man for the job," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on April 23 in announcing his nomination. "I don’t know anybody in the U.S. military better qualified to lead that effort."

Centcom, headquartered in Tampa, Fla., is responsible for U.S. military operations throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa, and thus oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With that command, Petraeus directs the leading front in the nearly seven-year-old War on Terror.

If his appointment to Tampa is approved by the Senate, as widely expected, he brings high hopes to stabilize a region fraught with global challenge. Time named Petraeus 33rd out of the 100 most influential leaders and revolutionaries of 2007 as well as one of its four runners up for Time Person of the Year. GOP presidential hopeful John McCain, R-Ariz., on the heels of the Centcom nomination, called Petraeus "one of the great generals in American history."

Building Positive Momentum in Iraq
Petraeus, 55, is widely hailed by the Bush administration and members of Congress for implementing a new strategy in Iraq, including the deployment of some 30,000 additional troops that dramatically improved security. By most accounts, the “surge” of 2007 is paying off, thanks to the vision of Petraeus, whose experience in Iraq is broad and deep.

In 2003, Petraeus, then a Major General, commanded the 101st Airborne Division during V Corps’s drive to Baghdad. Later, he was credited with establishing security and stability in the critically important city of Mosul. One of his major public works accomplishments included the restoration and reopening of the University of Mosul. “To beat this you can’t just kill the bad guys,” the general told the New York Times. “You’ve got to give people jobs.”

Flash forward five years, the goal remains to stabilize Iraq and foster democracy in this Middle East battleground. In his most recent assessment of life on the ground in Iraq, Petraeus is cautiously optimistic yet guarded, as evidenced in his testimony before Congress in early April 2008. “The Champagne bottle has been pushed to the back of the refrigerator. And the progress, while real, is fragile and is reversible.”

Career Highlights
General David H. Petraeus assumed command of the Multi-National Force-Iraq on February 10th, 2007, following his assignment as the Commanding General, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth.  Prior to assuming command at Ft. Leavenworth, he was the first commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq, which he led from June 2004 to September 2005, and the NATO Training Mission- Iraq, which he commanded from October 2004 to September 2005.  That deployment to Iraq followed his command of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), during which he led the “Screaming Eagles” in combat throughout the first year of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Previous assignments included Bosnia.

General Petraeus was commissioned in the Infantry upon graduation from the United States Military Academy in 1974.  He has held leadership positions in airborne, mechanized, and air assault infantry units in Europe and the United States, including command of a battalion in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and a brigade in the 82nd Airborne Division.  In addition, he has held a number of staff assignments:  Aide to the Chief of Staff of the Army; battalion, brigade, and division operations officer; Military Assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander - Europe; Chief of Operations of the United Nations Force in Haiti; and Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

General Petraeus was the General George C. Marshall Award winner as the top graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Class of 1983.  He subsequently earned a MPA and Ph.D. degrees in international relations from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and later served as an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the US Military Academy.  He also completed a fellowship at Georgetown University.

Awards and decorations earned by General Petraeus include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, two awards of the Distinguished Service Medal, two awards of the Defense Superior Service Medal, four awards of the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal for valor, the State Department Superior Honor Award, the NATO Meritorious Service Medal, and the Gold Award of the Iraqi Order of the Date Palm.  He is a Master Parachutist and is Air Assault and Ranger qualified.  He has also earned the Combat Action Badge and French, British, and German Jump Wings.  In 2005 he was recognized by the U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s 25 Best Leaders.

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