General Anderson Retires After 39 Years of Service

By Merrie Schilter-Lowe | NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs | May 27, 2004

PETERSON AFB, Colo. – Army Lt. Gen. Edward G. Anderson III will retire today, May 27, ending a military career spanning 39 years. The general is deputy commander at U.S. Northern Command and vice commander of U.S. Element, North American Aerospace Defense Command at Peterson AFB.

By joining the Army, Anderson followed in the footsteps of his father, retired Col. Edward G. Anderson Jr. But he attributes much of his military successes to his wife, Ann. “I wouldn’t be where I am without her,” he said. “I know people often say that, but it’s true.” The Andersons met in high school while both of their families were stationed in France. Ann’s father, retired Col. Silas Dishman, was an Army infantry officer at the time, the general said.

Initially, Anderson came on active duty as an enlisted man. But shortly after entering basic military training at Fort Dix, N.J., he applied for and was accepted to attend the U.S. Military Academy Prep School at Fort Belvoir, Va. Subsequently, he was accepted to West Point. Anderson said he considers both his acceptance and graduation from West Point to be career milestones.

Other milestones include his promotion to flag officer, selection as former director for strategic plans and policy for the Joint Staff, selection as former deputy commander for U.S. Space Command, and selection for his current position at NORAD and USNORTHCOM.

Anderson also views his tour in Vietnam as a milestone. “It was a significant milestone although I still look back with sadness.” He said he lost four members of his unit during an early morning attack in 1970. The attack, he said, “made war real to me.”

According to Anderson, being assigned to NORAD and USNORTHCOM means his military career has come “full circle and beyond.” By way of explanation, he said people join the military to protect the homeland. “Now, we’re doing homeland defense in this nation, and there is no more important mission than that,” he said, referring to the NORAD and USNORTHCOM mission to defend the United States from attack by enemies inside as well as outside U.S. borders and territories.

After graduating from West Point, Anderson commanded field artillery units in the United States, Korea, Germany and Vietnam. He also served on the Army staff in the office of the deputy chief of staff for research, development and acquisition in the Pentagon, and as director of firepower in the office of the deputy chief of staff for combat developments at Army Training and Doctrine Command headquarters.

The general’s other assignments included being director of combat developments, Army Field Artillery Center, Fort Sill, Okla.; assistant division commander for the 1st Armored Division and the 3rd Infantry Division in Germany; deputy commanding general, combat developments, Army Combined Arms Command, Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; assistant deputy chief of staff of operations and plans for force development, Department of the Army headquarters; and commander, Army Space and Missile Defense Command.

Anderson earned a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College. He also graduated from the British Higher Command and Staff Course and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

His awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Army Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Bronze Star, and Bronze Star with “V” device.

The general said he and his wife are still finalizing their post-retirement plans “but we’re not going to break camp, fold our tents and go somewhere not to be seen or heard from,” he said with a grin. However, he said, because he feels “so strongly about homeland defense” he probably will continue to work in that area.

As he leaves the active-duty world, Anderson said he urges NORAD and USNORTHCOM members to be “constantly prepared” to perform the mission and “continue to focus” on deterring and preventing terrorist attacks.

He noted this task can only be accomplished by collaborating with other federal, state, and local agencies, and if every American does his or her part. “I’m absolutely convinced that the bad guys will attack us again and in a way that will be more tragic than (Sept. 11, 2001). We can’t let our guard down as a command, or as a nation.”

According to the general, Americans should constantly be on the alert and report anything that seems out of the ordinary. “We should learn a lesson from the people in Spain,” said Anderson. He said a lot of people saw things in Madrid last March that should have been reported but were not. As a result, terrorists planted bombs on several passenger trains killing nearly 200 people.

“In this nation, it is the freedoms that we value and the freedoms we try to protect that make us vulnerable to attack,” said General Anderson. “We need to be aware that we are at risk.”

Anderson said he considers his years in the military to have been “absolutely fantastic” and, if possible, he would “start all over again.” He said the Army and other services are “in better shape today” than at any other time. Although this creates pressure for service members to “maintain those capabilities that our nation now depends on,” Anderson said he is convinced military members will continue to “stand up to the task as they have always done.”