2010 Distinguished Graduate Award
GEN (R) Barry McCaffrey '64
Throughout a career of professional excellence, General Barry McCaffrey’s service has epitomized the West Point values of “Duty, Honor, Country.” His record as an exceptional military leader, accomplished public servant, and lifelong contributor to the United States Military Academy and its mission make him a superb choice for the Distinguished Graduate Award.
Following graduation from West Point in 1964, General McCaffrey was commissioned in the Infantry and began 32 years of active military service, including four combat tours (one in the Dominican Republic, two in Vietnam, and one in Iraq) during which he earned three Purple Hearts for wounds received in combat. He earned the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and Bronze Star as a parachute infantry platoon leader in the 82nd Airborne Division during the Organization of American States’ intervention in the Dominican Republic. A few years later, as a rifle company commander leading troops in Vietnam, he was twice awarded the Silver Star for exceptional valor. He was also twice awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in Vietnam. One of General McCaffrey’s former platoon sergeants recalled seeing him being evacuated in March 1969 after having sustained serious wounds during an intense fire-fight. He said, “I wondered how we could get along without his leadership. It then occurred to me that he had done his job of preparing us to take care of ourselves because of what he taught us.”
In 1970, General McCaffrey received a Master of Arts degree in Civil Government from American University and would return to teach in the Department of Social Sciences at his alma mater. During his final combat tour, as Commanding General of the 24th Infantry Division (Mech), he led the remarkable 370-kilometer left-hook attack into Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. For this bold maneuver, General McCaffrey was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
General McCaffrey has also demonstrated his leadership in complex political-military assignments. In addition to serving as Special Assistant to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, he also served as the Chairman’s liaison to the National Security Council, the Secretary of State, and the Ambassador to the United Nations. In his last position prior to retirement, General McCaffrey received a fourth star and was assigned as the Commander-in-Chief of US Southern Command. In this capacity, he coordinated US international security policy with foreign heads of government, ministers of defense and foreign affairs, and US ambassadors in 19 countries in Central and South America. He advised the President, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of State on US Latin American security policy and created the first Human Rights Council and Human Rights Code of Conduct for an American military joint command.
In 1996, following his retirement from military service, President Bill Clinton reached out to General McCaffrey to serve as Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), a cabinet-level position. He was unanimously confirmed by the US Senate and remained in the position for five years, making vital contributions to US national interests by authoring the US National Drug Control Strategy and developing and supervising multi-billion dollar drug control budgets. In the words of Raymond Kelly, current Police Commissioner for the City of New York, “General McCaffrey made ONDCP a force to be reckoned with. He brought a fierce intellect, compassion, and vision to the job. In short, he brought leadership.”
Though his accomplishments as a military leader and public servant are remarkable, General McCaffrey’s commitment to West Point and its mission to educate, train, and inspire cadets is of equal consequence. In 2001, he became the Bradley Distinguished Professor of International Security Studies where he developed a superb course in international security for the top 20 junior and senior cadets from all academic departments at the Academy. His service as the Bradley Professor extended well beyond the conduct of a single course. He contributed across the curriculum through his participation in numerous guest lectures, professional development classes, panel sessions, and social activities. Since leaving the Bradley Chair in 2005, he has been an Adjunct Professor of International Affairs in the Department of Social Sciences. The hallmark of his tenure at West Point has been the mentorship which he has willingly provided both cadets and faculty. As one faculty member stated, “the General has been my most inspiring mentor – in my view, a true model of integrity, personal sacrifice, and moral courage.”
In addition to his current role as a military analyst for NBC News, where he helps explain complex national security issues to the American public, General McCaffrey is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and is on the Board of Advisors of the National Infantry Foundation. In 2007, he was inducted into the US Army Ranger Hall of Fame.
General McCaffrey’s service to the nation in war and peace, combined with his lifetime support of West Point, is in keeping with the highest traditions of the Academy.
Accordingly, the West Point Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy takes great pride in presenting the 2010 Distinguished Graduate Award to Barry R. McCaffrey.