HUMBOLDT?- For Pat Colwell, emergency manager for Humboldt County, the death of Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., a U.S. Army four-star general, on Thursday was personal.
Colwell, a retired U.S. Navy senior chief yeoman, worked for the general as his flag rider - a type of aide - for 2 1/2 years.
"It was the highlight of my military career," he said.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Pat Colwell, emergency manager of Humboldt County, looks over a map of Iraq and Kuwait that hung on General Norman Schwarzkopf’s bedroom wall during Operation Desert Storm. Colwell served as an aide to the general for more than two years. Schwarzkopf died Thursday.
The time with Schwarzkopf included Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.
"Those last six months were the most exciting," he said.
Colwell held the general in high regard.
"He was very smart," he said. "He took care of his people."
He recalls an incident where a two-star general got abusive with a young officer over the telephone, Schwarzkopf walked by and overhead the conversation then took the phone from the officer.
"This is General Schwarzkopf," he told the caller. "Do not yell at my people."
He then hung up.
Schwarzkopf was also famous for the many quotable things he said.
"I remember when somebody asked him if he could find forgiveness for the enemy," Colwell said.
He also remembers well the reply.
"Mine was not to forgive, it's God's job to forgive," he recalled. "It's my job to arrange the meeting."
He also inspired Colwell to stay working for him instead of applying for a position with an admiral. Schwarzkopf remembered it when he presented him with his Bronze Star.
"Do you think that Navy four star could have done this?" he asked.
One of the first things people ask Colwell is how someone in the Navy ended up serving an Army general.
He said it began with a Navy training program. They had to learn 100 words per minute shorthand, English at a college sophomore level and typing at 80 words per minute.
Plus something extra.
"We called it knife and fork school," Colwell said. "It was so you knew how to act around flag officers."
Once he was done, he went to work for another officer in Bahrain until Schwarzkopf saw the advantage the aides offered generals in the other branches of the service.
"I want one of those," he was reported to have said.
He put his name in then entered a whirlwind.
"He picked me," he said. "Next thing I know my family is moving."
Schwarzkopf's loyalty to his troops didn't end when they left the service. Colwell had called his office to ask for a letter of recommendation from the then retired general.
"FedEx showed up with a letter signed by him," he said, "And I got the job."
He still has it, both the letter and the job.