Colin Powell : biography
After the Vietnam War
Powell served a White House fellowship, a highly selective and prestigious position, under President Richard Nixon from 1972 to 1973.
In his autobiography, My American Journey, Powell named several officers he served under who inspired and mentored him. As a lieutenant colonel serving in South Korea, Powell was very close to General Henry "Gunfighter" Emerson. Powell said he regarded Emerson as one of the most caring officers he ever met. Emerson insisted his troops train at night to fight a possible North Korean attack, and made them repeatedly watch the television film Brian’s Song to promote racial harmony. Powell always professed that what set Emerson apart, was his great love of his soldiers and concern for their welfare. After a race riot occurred, where African American soldiers almost killed a Caucasian officer, Powell was charged by Emerson to crackdown on black militants; Powell’s efforts lead to the discharge of one soldier, and other efforts to reduce racial tensions.
A "political general"
In the early 1980s, Powell served at Fort Carson, Colorado. After he left Fort Carson, Powell became senior military assistant to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, whom he assisted during the 1983 invasion of Grenada and the 1986 airstrike on Libya.
In 1986, Powell took over the command of V Corps in Frankfurt, Germany, from Robert Lewis "Sam" Wetzel.
Following the Iran Contra scandal, Powell became, at the age of 49, Ronald Reagan’s National Security Advisor, serving from 1987 to 1989 while retaining his Army commission as a lieutenant general.
In April 1989, after his tenure with the National Security Council, Powell was promoted to a full general under President George H. W. Bush and briefly served as the Commander in Chief, Forces Command (FORSCOM), headquartered at Fort McPherson, Georgia, overseeing all Army, Army Reserve, and National Guard units in the Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. He became only the third general since World War II, joining Dwight D. Eisenhower and Alexander Haig, to reach four-star rank without ever serving as a division commander.
Later that year, President George H. W. Bush selected him as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Powell’s last military assignment, from October 1, 1989, to September 30, 1993, was as the 12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military position in the Department of Defense. At age 52, he became the youngest officer, and first Afro-Caribbean American, to serve in this position. Powell was also the first JCS Chair who received his commission through ROTC.
During this time, he oversaw 28 crises, including the invasion of Panama in 1989 to remove General Manuel Noriega from power and Operation Desert Storm in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. During these events, Powell earned his nickname, "the reluctant warrior." He rarely advocated military intervention as the first solution to an international crisis, and instead usually prescribed diplomacy and containment.
As a military strategist, Powell advocated an approach to military conflicts that maximizes the potential for success and minimizes casualties. A component of this approach is the use of overwhelming force, which he applied to Operation Desert Storm in 1991. His approach has been dubbed the "Powell Doctrine". Powell continued as chairman of the JCS into the Clinton presidency but as a dedicated "realist" he considered himself a bad fit for an administration largely made up of liberal internationalists. He clashed with then-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright over the Bosnian crisis, as he opposed any military interventions that didn’t involve US interests., The Observer, September 30, 2001.
During his chairmanship of the JCS, there was discussion of awarding Powell a fifth star, granting him the rank of General of the Army. But even in the wake of public and Congressional pressure to do so, Clinton-Gore presidential transition team staffers decided against it.