General killed in Afghanistan laid to rest in Arlington rites

Harold J. Greene remembered as both a warrior and businessman


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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


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