Maj. Gen. Gary L. Harrell

By Brenadine HumphreySeptember 6, 2020

2020 Hall of Fame Inductee

East Tennessee State University (1973)

During a deployment somewhere
During a deployment somewhere (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL
MG Gary Harrell
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Maj. Gen. Gary L. Harrell’s distinguished career began when he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1973 through East Tennessee State University’s Army ROTC program. His initial assignment was to the 2nd Bn., 508th Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, NC where he served as a Rifle Platoon Leader and Anti-Tank (TOW) platoon leader.

By early 1977, Harrell had earned a Green Beret and was assigned to a Special Forces Group in Panama.

Over the next 35 years, Harrell held assignments supporting numerous storied units including the 82nd Airborne Division, the 7th Special Forces group, and the infamous 1st SFOD-D (Delta Force), and included combat operations in Panama, Somlia, Afghanist and Iraq.

He deployed to Grenada during Operation Urgent Fury. Harrell helped rescue U.S. hostage Kurt Muse from a Panamanian jail in 1989 and hunt down Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.

He was sent to the Middle East during Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm and as commander of the special operation Delta Force, he was wounded by mortar fire during United Nations relief efforts in Somalia, a story chronicled in the movie “Black Hawk Down.”

Later, he assumed responsibility for the protection of U.S. forces in 25 nations surrounding the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. After the attack on the USS Cole, he deployed to Yemen, selected for the job by Gen. Tommy Franks, Commander of the U.S. Central Command. His actions provided safety for the surviving crewmembers and investigators who arrived to conduct the post explosion investigation.

A surprising career for a man who signed up for Army ROTC so he could ditch an algebra class and who expected to get out as a Captain.

"If it was complex, if it was difficult or critical to our nation, Gary was there," Lt. Gen. Robert Wagner, the commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, said during Maj. Gen. Gary Harrell’s retirement ceremony.

Read more about his career at Task Force Dagger Foundation.

About the Army ROTC Hall of Fame

The ROTC Hall of Fame was established in 2016 as part of the ROTC Centennial celebration. The first class (2016) inducted 326 former ROTC Cadets who had distinguished themselves in their military or civilian career.

The Hall of Fame honors graduates of the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps who have distinguished themselves in military or civilian pursuits. It provides a prestigious and tangible means of recognizing and honoring Army ROTC Alumni who have made lasting, significant contributions to the Nation, the Army and the history and traditions of the Army ROTC Program.

Read more about all 16 of the 2020 Hall of Fame Inductees.