Charlie Cleveland is a proven strategic leader whose vision, judgment and persistence continue to shape U.S. national defense policy. He is noted lecturer on judgment and leadership, and advisor to successful small businesses working in the defense sector. The proud son of a career Army NCO, he is a 1978 graduate of West Point following which he served 37 years on active duty, almost all in U.S. Army Special Forces. He earned a master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the Army War College in 2001. He is on the Advisory Boards of Itility, Gantz Mountain, SyTech, and the Hoplite Group; owner of the consulting firm Unconventional Strategies and Solutions, an Adjunct at the Rand Corporation, Advisory Board Member at the nonprofits OSS Society and Spirit of America. He lectures at the Naval Postgraduate School and Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs and the Mendoza Business School. Coauthor of the book Military Strategy in the 21st Century, Cambria Press, 2018. He is the recipient of a Smith Richardson Foundation Grant and his report, “An American Way of Irregular War” is in review for publication by Rand. Appointed in 2019 by the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee to the NDAA directed Syria Study Group.
He retired from U.S. Army in July 2015. His last duty position was as Commanding General, U.S. Army Special Operations Command (34K soldiers and civilians) where his ARSOF 2022 initiatives provided a foundation for American irregular warfare doctrine and reenergized Unconventional Warfare thinking. Prior general officer commands include Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) 2008 to 2011 and SOCSOUTH from 2005 to 2008. He was the 30th Commander of the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) from 2001 to 2003, commanding all U.S. and allied forces in Northern Iraq during the U.S.-led invasion, a force of over 5500 U.S. special operations and conventional soldiers of all Services and over 60 thousand Kurdish fighters.
He has also been the Chief of Personnel for the U.S. Army’s Special Forces Officer Branch; Special Forces Battalion Commander; Special Operations Action Officer on the Joint Staff in Washington D.C.; Special Forces Company and Detachment Commander assigned to 7th Special Forces Group in Panama, Counterintelligence Company Commander in Germany. He began his Army career in the Green Berets with 10th Special Forces Group at Ft Devens, MA.
His notable operational experience includes hostage rescue operations in Colombia, counternarcotic operations in Bolivia, counterinsurgency training in Venezuela, OPN Just Cause – the U.S. incursion into Panama, Peacekeeping in Bosnia and Kosovo, and counterterrorism campaign development and leadership in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Lebanon, and Pakistan.
He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff and War Colleges and the Armed Forces Staff College. His military awards include the Combat Infantryman’s Badge (Second Award) and the Distinguished Service Medal. He speaks Spanish and German.
He has been married to Mary Ann for 40 years. They have three grown children.