The family of Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, who was killed in an insider attack in Kabul Tuesday, called him a "hero" who "believed in what he was doing" in Afghanistan.
Greene, 55, was killed when a gunman in an Afghan military uniform opened fire with an automatic weapon during a gathering of U.S. and Afghan military brass at a military academy. More than a dozen soldiers, including several Americans, were injured.
"The family wants us to know they believe America has lost a true hero today," Lt. Col. Juanita Chang, of Army Public Affairs, said Tuesday evening outside the Greene family's home in Falls Church, Virginia. "He believed in what he was doing over there."
Greene is the highest-ranking Army general killed in an overseas combat zone since the Vietnam War.
The Army's top soldier, Gen. Ray Odierno, issued a statement Tuesday evening saying the Army's thoughts and prayers were with Greene's family as well as the families of those injured in the attack.
In a 34-year career that began at Fort Polk, La., Greene, a native of upstate New York, earned a reputation as an inspiring leader with a sense of humility. He had been in Afghanistan since January, serving as deputy commander of a support command called the Combined Security Transition Command, in Kabul.
At the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Greene was serving at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. When the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003 he was a student at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, at the rank of lieutenant colonel.
From 2009 to 2011, for example, he served as deputy commanding general of the Army's Research, Development and Engineering Command and senior commander of the Natick Soldier System Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland. During that tour of duty he gained the rank of brigadier general, and at his promotion ceremony in December 2009 he was lauded for his leadership skills and ability to inspire those around him.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Speakes applauded Greene for a "sense of self, a sense of humility'' and an exemplary work ethic, according to an account of the promotion ceremony published by the Times Union of Albany, N.Y., which called Greene an Albany native.
"In every job I had we got things done that I think made our Army better, and it was done by other people,'' Greene was quoted as saying. "All I did was try to pull people in the right direction and they went out and did great things.''
The Greenes' son, Matthew, also is in the Army and their daughter, Amelia, recently graduated from Binghamton University in New York state.
Greene earned a bachelor of science degree in materials engineering and a master's degree in industrial engineering, both from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. He later studied at the University of Southern California and also attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Leavenworth, Kansas.
In 2010, he spoke at the opening of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center, a research facility at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with the mission of improving the Army's understanding of social, information and communication networks, according to the Army's account of the event.
"We're in a fight now with an enemy that's a little bit different and uses different techniques ... and networks are a key part of that,'' Greene said.
He said finding patterns in the tactics of insurgents was difficult because of the way networks evolve and otherwise change. So the goal was to bring to light the patterns and determine how to anticipate and influence the actions of insurgents.
"The enemy is every bit as good as we are at using that network to our detriment so this is essential work, this is about defending our country,'' Greene said. "You must know that there is a direct application on the battlefield and we're using it today, but we don't really understand it yet so this is a critical element.''
His awards include the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Service Medal, a Meritorious Service Award and an Army Commendation Medal.