WhoRunsGov

Gen. Carter F. Ham

Commanding General, U.S. Army Forces in Africa Commander (since March 2011)

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Why He Matters

Gen. Ham, U.S. Army Forces in Africa commander, stands apart from most U.S. generals in one striking way. Unlike his four-star peers, Ham knows how the other half live -- as in enlisted soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.

He didn't begin his military career after graduating from West Point or the U.S. Naval Academy. Rather, Ham started his career as an enlisted infantryman in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division. This unique perspective made Ham the right general to lead the Pentagon's study of how a repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy on gays in the military would affect troops fighting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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At a Glance

  • Career History: U.S. Army Forces in Europe Commander; U.S. Army enlisted, 82nd Airborne; John Carroll University, U.S. Army assistant inspector general; Trainer to Saudi Arabian National Guard; Commander, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry; Chief of staff, 1st Infantry Division; Commander, 29th Infantry Regiment; Commander, Multinational Brigade North (Iraq); Deputy director for regional Operations, Joint Staff in the Pentagon; Commander, 1st Infantry Division; Director of operations, Joint Staff.
  • Deployments: Operation Iraqi Freedom; Operation Able Sentry; Operation Desert Storm
  • Birthday: Feb. 16, 1952
  • Alma Mater: John Carroll University
  • Spouse: Christi Ham
 

Path To Power

Ham graduated from the Air War College in 1997, then was sent back to Germany for a senior staff post with the 1st Infantry Division. He would soon become its chief of staff. In 1999, Ham was made commander of the 29th Infantry Regiment, which was assigned to U.S. Central Command, a post he held until 2001.

Next, Ham became deputy commanding general for readiness for I Corps. In January 2004, he headed for the Iraq war, becoming commander of Multinational Brigade-North in Mosul, Iraq, a job he held until February 2005. He then returned to the States, and was made deputy director for regional ops on the the Joint Staff in the Pentagon. Next up was another operational post: commander of the storied 1st Infantry Division, a job he held from August 2006 to July 2007. His most recent position was the high-profile operations director for the Joint Staff.

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The Issues

As the top U.S. Army general in Africa, Ham oversees 53 African countries. Previously a part of the European Command, which was overseen by Ham in his former job, the command manages issues such as counterterrorism, armed conflict, humanitarian issues and in early 2011, major political upheaval in countries like Libya and Egypt.

In fact, Carter was in charge of U.S. military support for enforcing the U.N. Security Council resolution approved in March 2011 that allowed foreign military intervention in Libya to support the rebels against President Moammar Gadaffi.

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The Network

Ham has worked with served alongside many current military leaders and some members of the Obama administration. One is Gen. Eric Shinseki, now Veterans Affairs chief. In 2003, when Ham, then a one-star general, was mulling retirement, then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Shinseki pulled him aside during a conference, Ham told The Tacoma News Tribune one year later. "Don't screw this up. I'm giving you my two Stryker brigades. As you might've noticed, these are very important to me,'" Shinseki told Ham. Ham didn't retuire, and his career took off.

Ham has also worked closely with Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon's top lawyer. This gives Ham another powerful ally -- along with Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- within the Obama administration. Johnson was inserted at DoD after raising big campaign cash for Obama during the 2008 presidential election cycle. Allies like that are key for generals eying bigger jobs.

 

Campaign Contributions

Like all senior military officials, Ham has not donated to any political candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

 

Additional Resources

  1. Parrish, Karen, AFPS, "Military Can Manage 'Don't Ask' Repeal, Dec. 2, 2010
  2. Stuijt, Adriana, DigitalJournal.com, "More U.S. Troops Needed in Europe, Top General Warns," Feb. 17, 2009
  3. Scully, Megan, "Gates warns against gambling on 'don't ask' review," GovernmentExecutive.com, Dec. 2, 2010.
  4. (Montgomery, Nancy, "Gen. Ham to study effects of revoking 'don't ask, don't tell," Stars & Stripes, Feb. 28, 2010)
  5. Defense Department press release, March 9, 2011
  6. O'Keefe, Ed,Senate Votes to Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Dec. 17, 2010
  7. Lubold, Gordon, POLITICO, "Marines, Air Force don't endorse 'don't ask, don't tell repeal," Dec. 3, 2010.
  8. Montgomery, Nancy, "Gen. Ham to study effects of revoking 'don't ask, don't tell," Stars & Stripes, Feb. 28, 2010
  9. Nov. 30, 2010 DADT report, special Pentagon web site
  10. Official U.S. Army biography