WASHINGTON — During his three decades in the Army, Harold J. Greene was as much a businessman as a soldier.
Working with private companies, his job was to make sure that his fellow soldiers had the technologies and equipment they needed to complete their missions. He visited combat zones, but was never deployed.
That changed in January, when he was promoted to the rank of major general and was sent to Kabul, Afghanistan, with a vital assignment: to teach what he knew to an Afghan military preparing to fully take over after NATO forces leave in the next two years.
“He had a passion for acquisition, and when he was offered the opportunity to advance that business in the field, he welcomed it,” said retired Army Col. Tim Goddette, who has worked for Gen. Greene.
Gen. Greene, 55, was buried on Thursday afternoon at Arlington National Cemetery, more than a week after an Afghan soldier who was supposed to be fighting the Taliban opened fire on a NATO delegation at a military facility on the outskirts of Kabul, killing the general and wounding 15 others.
Several hundred people attended the funeral, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel; the Afghan ambassador to the United States, Eklil Ahmad Hakimi; the Army chief of staff, Gen. Ray Odierno; and dozens of other generals. It featured full military honors, including a colors team, a riderless horse and a 13-gun salute by cannon.
American flags in the traditional tricorner shape were presented by Gen. Odierno to Gen. Greene’s widow, son, daughter and father. “In life, he honored the flag,” Lt. Col. Jerry Owens, an Army chaplain, told the family. “In death, the flag honors him.”
The fatal shooting of Gen. Greene shocked his colleagues and was a bitter reminder of the uncertainty surrounding NATO’s plan to transfer power to Afghan forces, which still suffer from major deficiencies, including discipline problems and questionable loyalties, according to U.S. military officials.
The episode also renewed attention to “green-on-blue attacks,” in which Afghan soldiers turn their guns on NATO service members working alongside them. In 88 such attacks since 2008, 143 coalition troops have been killed, according to The Long War Journal. At their peak in 2012, there were 44 such attacks. This year, there have been three.
Gen. Greene, who was raised in upstate New York and lived in Falls Church, Va., was an engineer by training who pushed the Army to embrace consumer products such as smartphones and video games as training tools for digital-age recruits.
He was sent to Afghanistan to teach the Afghan military how to buy weapons and technology. He was one of the most senior U.S. officers helping to complete the handoff of the security mission Afghan forces.
The general’s friends and proteges described him as an unusually empathetic manager who inspired enthusiasm among his troops and used his sharp sense of humor to help them cope with serious missions.
“He was extremely adept at putting people in the right job and ensuring they understood their mission, and then checking on them and giving them the guidance and the encouragement to move out and make things happen,” said Army Col. Ken Rodgers, the general’s chief of staff in Afghanistan, who escorted his remains to the United States.
U.S. officials have said they do not believe that Gen. Greene was targeted specifically by the attacker, who was killed in return fire. There is also no indication that the soldier was collaborating with the Taliban. The episode is still being investigated.
Gen. Greene’s family is a military one. His wife, Susan Myers, is a retired Army colonel, and his son, Matthew, is an Army lieutenant. His father, Harold, served in World War II.
Col. Rodgers, who knew Gen. Greene for 18 years and worked for him several times, said he was paying little attention to the broader strategic questions raised by the killing of such a high-ranking officer, and was instead reflecting on the man he knew and admired.afghanistan - United States - North America - Asia - Kabul - Central Asia - Taliban - Chuck Hagel - Afghan armed forces - Afghanistan government - North Atlantic Treaty Organization - Raymond T. Odierno - Harold Greene