Natick remembers Maj. Gen. Harold J. 'Harry' Greene
August 7, 2014
NATICK, Mass. (Aug. 6, 2014) -- They knew him as an excellent Soldier, scientist and commander, but when most people at Natick Soldier Systems Center think of Maj. Gen. Harold J. "Harry" Greene, they remember the friend, the genuinely caring human being who laughed easily with them and flashed that infectious smile at every opportunity.
Those memories are all that remain now of Greene, who was killed Tuesday, in Afghanistan, during a shooting incident that also left 14 other service members wounded. The 55-year-old Greene was the highest-ranking U.S. service member to die in the war, and he was the first general officer killed in combat since the Vietnam War.
At the time of his death, Greene was deputy commander of the Combined Security Transition Command, and was on a routine site visit to the Marshal Fahim National Defense University.
Greene, a 34-year Army veteran, served as NSSC's senior commander from August 2009 to May 2011. Before his departure from Natick, Greene was asked about his legacy.
"My replacement is going to live at Natick," said Greene, who had split time between NSSC and Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., where he also served as deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command. "I think that is tremendously important, and it gives a presence in the community that wasn't here before with a part-time senior commander.
"He'll travel a lot, but we planted a general officer flag back in New England," he said.
He may have lived here only part time, but Greene became a recognizable figure at such events as the Iwo Jima Day ceremony at the Massachusetts State House, and the transfer of flags ceremony at the Natick School District. He was equally comfortable at a lectern explaining the important work done at NSSC, or taking off his jacket and dropping for push-ups with youngsters at Beacon Hill Day.
"One of the things I knew from growing up here as a kid was how patriotic (Massachusetts) was," Greene said. "I learned to have a deeper appreciation during my time here. I had many opportunities to get out in the community."
Brig. Gen. William E. Cole, the current NSSC senior commander, worked for Greene in the past and remembered him fondly.
"He was extraordinarily smart, cared deeply about his people, and was completely dedicated to the Army's mission in Afghanistan," Cole said. "He was also great to work for and with, and he had a super sense of humor. He was a mentor to me, and I will miss him very much."
Dr. Laurel Allender, acting director of the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, shared her thoughts about Greene.
"I am wrestling with the sadness I feel personally on the loss of Maj. Gen. Harry Greene, an amazing Soldier, leader and fellow scientist -- and also with the enduring questions of the nature of war and peace and our commitment to defense," Allender said. "I awoke this morning with a renewed dedication to our mission, and encourage you all to do the same."
Its director, Dale Ormond, talked about Greene's importance to RDECOM.
"Many of you who knew and served with him know the impact he had on this command and its people," Ormond said. "The loss of Maj. Gen. Greene is certainly felt across the Army, and this enterprise. He dutifully served the people of this great nation and dedicated his time at this command making sure Soldiers came first.
"Most of all, we will remember Maj. Gen. Greene as a great Soldier, officer and member of our family," Ormond said. "He was a man of uncommon and exemplary professionalism, competence and candor, in the most profound way."
Army Reserve Lt. Col. Brian Wood served as Greene's executive officer for two years at Natick. He called his former boss a consummate professional.
"He would always do what was right, whether popular or not -- a man of rock solid and unwavering character," Wood said. "I thoroughly enjoyed working for him and now carry many (of his) lessons with me each day. He had a great sense of humor and sense of community and a great way with people at all levels. You could always hear him coming down the hall, cheerfully greeting everyone.
"Most of all, I appreciated his commitment to the Army, its mission and the Soldiers" he said. "He was proud to be a Soldier, and it showed every day."
Wood recalled how much Greene loved Boston's professional sports teams.
"I was able to attend several Red Sox games with him, and recall one time at 2 a.m., after a rain delay and extra innings, when he still did not want to leave the game before the last pitch," Wood said. "He would acknowledge Fenway Park every time we drove by."
Retired Sgt. Maj. John Poff, who served as Greene's senior enlisted adviser at Natick, said he was "crushed" by word of Greene's death.
"He and I had a very special bond," Poff said. "It was a devastating blow to see that something like that could happen to such a great human being."
Once he absorbed that blow, Poff was able to recall some of the better times with Greene.
"He was very light hearted," Poff said. "He was always in on somebody doing a practical joke. He looked at everyone equally. He never looked down on anybody. He was genuine."