Before last week, retired four-star Gen. David Petraeus was the very picture of the modern military.
That all changed with the admission that he’d engaged in an extramarital affair, leading him to step down from his most highly placed post yet, as director of the CIA. But before his life turned into a dirty joke, he was the picture of military devotion, a man who had spent his life in training to be a leader of men.
And while his reported lover, Paula Broadwell, is by all reports a woman who had a great deal in common with him down to being a fitness fanatic, Petraeus is still being an officer and gentleman where Broadwell is concerned. Aside from admitting to the affair, he’s not admitted that it was with Broadwell or given any further details beyond that he’d made a mistake.
Ironically, in a posting about his “Rules for Living” that appeared on The Daily Beast and posted by Broadwell, his fifth rule begins: “We all make mistakes. The key is to recognize them and admit them.”
Here’s a few facts behind the man who led the American military’s surge in Iraq from 2007-2008, who commanded international forces in Afghanistan from 2010-2011 and whose reputation as an American hero has been tarnished because of his dalliances with a younger woman.
1. He Graduated from West Point in 1974
Petraeus was appointed to the military academy after growing up in Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y. He also picked Holly Knowlton, the daughter of the West Point superintendent as his bride. The couple married at the West Point chapel.
2. He Has Advanced Degrees From Princeton
After Petraeus graduated from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in 1983, he went on to earn advanced degrees in public administration and international relations from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. For a while after he accepted the position of director of the CIA, Petraeus’ name was bandied about as a candidate to be president of Princeton, but he turned that away, saying the CIA was a perfect job for him.
3. He Led the 101st Airborne in the 2003 Attack in Iraq
Petraeus’ career had advanced to the points through the years of leading the 101st Airborne against Saddam Hussein’s regime. Once the attack was over, he was in charge of training the new Iraqi Army, a position held from June 2040 to September 2005.
4. Petraeus Returned Home to Command Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
The general returned to the United States to work on new strategies for counterinsurgency training and command troops, and was reportedly a popular commander who was very well in touch with soldiers at Fort Leavenworth.
5. Overseas Duties Called Again in 2007
Petraeus was named the commander of the Multi-National Force – Iraq (MFN-I) in February 2007 and was put in charge of leading the “surge” of troops in a new strategy against anti U.S. forces.
Gen. Ray Odierno succeeded him in that post in 2008, when Petraeus was named commander of the U.S. Central Command to oversee operations in Central Asia and the Middle East.
6. His Last Military Post was in Afghanistan
Petraeus was named in June 2010 to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal to command U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He served in that post until August 2011, when he retired his military service to take over as director of the CIA.
7. He Was Happy in His CIA Post
Petraeus has said the post challenged him intellectually and allowed him to live a normal family life. He and his wife settled into a new home in Virginia, and he was able to finally relax and spend time with his wife, rather than travel the world. But he had a secret that was about to break.
8. He Was Being Talked About as a Potential Republican Presidential Candidate
Petraeus was seen in being in the mold of another popular war hero, Dwight D. Eisenhower. He built a reputation in the Army as being a personable leader who know how to use publicity in his favor. But while Eisenhower’s relationship with year-younger driver Kay Summersby went ignored for decades, it’s not so easy to keep a secret anymore.
9. He Headed the CIA For Less Than a Year
After the FBI examined email and found evidence he’d had a sexual affair, it’s shocking that the admiration for his decades of accomplishment ended barely a year after accepting the highly political post.
10. He Admits to Using “Poor Judgment” in His Affair
Petraeus is ending a distinguished career after announcing he’d cheated on his wife of 38 years. Instead of enjoying his golden years as one of the most highly decorated military men in U.S. history, he’s ending his career as the target of investigations as the FBI examines if national security was compromised.
A sad ending indeed for a man who dedicated his life to guarding national security, isn’t it?