Colin Powell : biography
Colin Luther Powell ( born April 5, 1937) is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army.Preferred pronunciation rhymes with "bowel", not "bowl" (as in Charles Powell, Baron Powell of Bayswater) – see Alexander Chancellor, "You Say Tomato," New Yorker. August 9, 1993, p. 27. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under U.S. President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005, the first African American to serve in that position., The African American Registry., African American History Month, US Department of Defense., Britannica Online Encyclopedia., BBC News. During his military career, Powell also served as National Security Advisor (1987–1989), as Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command (1989) and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993), holding the latter position during the Persian Gulf War. He was the first, and so far the only, African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and was the first of two consecutive African American office-holders to hold the key Administration position of U.S. Secretary of State.
Powell was a professional soldier for 35 years, holding a variety of command and staff positions and rising to the rank of General.
Powell described joining the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) during college as one of the happiest experiences of his life; discovering something he loved and could do well, he felt he had "found himself." According to Powell: “It was only once I was in college, about six months into college when I found something that I liked, and that was ROTC, Reserve Officer Training Corps in the military. And I not only liked it, but I was pretty good at it. That’s what you really have to look for in life, something that you like, and something that you think you’re pretty good at. And if you can put those two things together, then you’re on the right track, and just drive on.” Cadet Powell joined the Pershing Rifles, the ROTC fraternal organization and drill team begun by General John Pershing. Even after he had become a general, Powell kept on his desk a pen set he had won for a drill team competition.
Upon graduation, he received a commission as an Army second lieutenant. After attending basic training at Fort Benning, Powell was assigned to the 48th Infantry, in West Germany, as a platoon leader.
In his autobiography, Powell said he is haunted by the nightmare of the Vietnam War and felt that the leadership was very ineffective.
Captain Powell served a tour in Vietnam as a South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) advisor from 1962 to 1963. While on patrol in a Viet Cong-held area, he was wounded by stepping on a punji stake. The large infection made it difficult for him to walk, and caused his foot to swell for a short time, shortening his first tour.
He returned to Vietnam as a major in 1968, serving in the Americal Division (23rd Infantry Division), then as assistant chief of staff of operations for the Americal Division. During the second tour in Vietnam he was decorated for bravery after he survived a helicopter crash, single-handedly rescuing three others, including division commander Major General Charles Martin Gettys, from the burning wreckage. He was charged with investigating a detailed letter by Tom Glen (a soldier from the 11th Light Infantry Brigade), which backed up rumored allegations of the My Lai Massacre. Powell wrote: "In direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent." Later, Powell’s assessment would be described as whitewashing the news of the massacre, and questions would continue to remain undisclosed to the public. In May 2004 Powell said to television and radio host Larry King, "I mean, I was in a unit that was responsible for My Lai. I got there after My Lai happened. So, in war, these sorts of horrible things happen every now and again, but they are still to be deplored."