Gen. Henry Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a highly decorated graduate of North Carolina State University, is the first member of the elite U.S. Army Special Forces -- the Green Berets -- to rise to the nation’s top military post. The 56-year-old, four-star general became the 14th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in October 1997.
The Edgecombe County native serves as the principal military adviser to the president, the secretary of defense and the National Security Council. Previously, he served as commander in chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command, which oversees the Green Berets and the Navy SEALs.
Shelton earned his commission through the Reserve Officers Training Corps at NC State, where he graduated in 1963 with a degree in textile engineering. He earned a master of science degree from Auburn University. His military education includes completion of the Air Command and Staff College and the National War College programs. In the two decades after his commissioning, Shelton held a variety command and staff positions in the United States and Vietnam. He served two tours in Vietnam, first with the 5th Special Forces Group and then with the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
Following his selection in 1987 as brigadier general, Shelton served in the Operations Directorate of the Joint Staff. In 1989, he began a two-year assignment as assistant division commander for operations of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) -- a tour that included a seven-month deployment to Saudi Arabia for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After the Gulf War, he was promoted to major general and assigned to Fort Bragg, where he commanded the 82nd Airborne Division. He was promoted to lieutenant general in 1993. In 1994, he commanded the Operation Uphold Democracy joint task force in Haiti. In 1996, Shelton was promoted to general and became commander in chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command.
His awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with 2 oak leaf clusters), Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit (with oak leaf cluster), Bronze Star Medal with V device (with 3 oak leaf clusters), and the Purple Heart.
Shelton is married to Tarboro native Carolyn Johnson Shelton. They have three sons, Jon, Jeff and Mark.