General Henry H. Shelton became the fourteenth Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 1 October 1997. In this capacity, he serves as the principal military advisor to the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the National Security Council. Prior to becoming Chairman, he served as Commander in Chief of the United States Special Operations Command.
Born in Tarboro, North Carolina in January, 1942, General Shelton earned a Bachelor of Science degree from North Carolina State University and 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.
Commissioned a second lieutenant in the Infantry in 1963 through the Reserve Officer Training Corps, General Shelton spent the next 24 years in a variety of command and staff positions in the continental United States, Hawaii, and Vietnam. He served two tours in Vietnam – the first with the 5th Special Forces Group, the second with the 173d Airborne Brigade. He also commanded the 3d Battalion, 60th Infantry in the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Washington, served as the 9th Infantry Division’s assistant chief of staff for operations, commanded the 1st Brigade of the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and served as the Chief of Staff of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York.
Following selection for brigadier general in 1987, General Shelton served two years 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 the Division’s seven-month deployment to Saudi Arabia for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Upon returning from the Gulf War, General Shelton was promoted to major general and assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he assumed command of the 82d Airborne Division. In 1993, he was promoted to lieutenant general and assumed command of the XVIIIth Airborne Corps. In 1994, while serving as corps commander, General Shelton commanded the Joint Task Force that conducted Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti. In March 1996, he was promoted to general and became Commander in Chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command.
General Shelton’s 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. He has also been awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Pathfinder Badge, Air Assault Badge, Military Freefall Badge, and Special Forces and Ranger Tabs.