Colin Luther Powell was born on 5 April 1937, in New York, New York. He attended the City University of New York. He graduated from CUNY and was commissioned a second lieutenant through the Reserve Officer Training Corps program in 1958.
From 1958 to 1960, Powell served in the United States Army, Europe. In 1959, Powell was promoted to temporary first lieutenant, which was made permanent two years later. From 1960 to 1962, he served as the liaison officer, executive officer, and commander of Company A, 1st Battle Group, 4th Infantry, 2d Infantry Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. In 1962, he attended the Army Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Powell was also promoted to temporary captain.
Powell served as an adviser with the 1st ARVN Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1963 when he was wounded by a punji stick boobytrap; he returned to the U.S. to attend the Infantry Officer Advanced Course at the Infantry School. He was made a permanent captain in 1965 and a temporary major the next year. From 1967 to 1968, Powell attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
In 1968, Powell returned to Vietnam with the Americal Division. Powell then attended The George Washington University to earn his Master of Business Administration degree. He was promoted to temporary lieutenant colonel in 1970, and to permanent major in 1972. From 1973 to 1974, Powell commanded the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, 2d Infantry Division, Eighth United States Army, Korea. From 1975 to 1976, Powell attended the National War College. In 1976, Powell was promoted to temporary colonel.
After graduating from the National War College, Powell commanded the 2d Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). He then served as an advisor to the Secretary of Defense until 1981. In 1979, Powell was made a temporary brigadier general and a permanent lieutenant colonel.
From 1981 to 1982, he was the assistant division commander of the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized). In 1982, he was made a permanent brigadier general. Powell then served as the deputy commanding general of the United States Army Combined Arms Combat Development Activity at Fort Leavenworth. From 1983 to 1986, Powell was the military assistant to the Secretary of Defense. In 1983, he was promoted to permanent major general and in 1986 to temporary lieutenant general.
In 1986, he commanded V Corps, United States Army, Europe. He then served as the deputy assistant, and later assistant, to the President for National Security Affairs. In 1989, Powell was promoted to temporary general and commanded Forces Command at Fort McPherson, Georgia.
In October 1989, Powell became the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During his tenure as the Chairman, Powell led the United States armed forces in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait. These Operations involved the largest buildup of U.S. military forces since the Vietnam War. He served in that post until his retirement on 30 September 1993.