Colin Powell is an American statesman and a retired four-star General in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under U.S. President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005, the first African American to serve in that position. During his military career, Powell also served as National Security Advisor (1987–1989), as Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command (1989) and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993), holding the latter position during the Persian Gulf War. He was the first, and so far the only, African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and was the first of two consecutive African American office-holders to hold the key administration position of U.S. Secretary of State.
Captain Powell served a tour in Vietnam as a South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) advisor from 1962 to 1963. While on patrol in a Viet Cong-held area, he was wounded by stepping on a punji stake. The large infection made it difficult for him to walk, and caused his foot to swell for a short time, shortening his first tour.
He returned to Vietnam as a major in 1968, serving in the Americal Division (23rd Infantry Division), then as assistant chief of staff of operations for the Americal Division. During the second tour in Vietnam he was decorated for bravery after he survived a helicopter crash, single-handedly rescuing three others, including division commander Major General Charles Martin Gettys, from the burning wreckage.
In the early 1980s, Powell served at Fort Carson, Colorado as the Assistant Division Commander of the 4th Infantry Division.
His military awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Soldier’s Medal and two Purple Hearts.
His civilian awards include the President’s Citizens Medal, the Congressional Gold Medal, the Secretary of State Distinguished Service Medal, and the Secretary of Energy Distinguished Service Medal as well as receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice.