Gary Harrell was a former U.S. Army Delta Force operator and leader who gained legendary status in the special operations community for his impressive and courageous leadership during high-risk missions in some of the most dangerous conflict zones around the world.
Born on June 1951, in the state of Tennessee, Harrell earned his commission as an Infantry officer through East Tennessee State University’s Army ROTC program and joined the 82nd Airborne Division before joining the 7th Special Forces Group in 1977.
Over the next two decades, Harrell played a key role in some of the most high-profile and critical missions of Delta Force, including the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia. The battle, which was depicted in the book and movie “Black Hawk Down,” involved U.S. troops attempting to capture a Somali warlord, but the mission quickly turned into a deadly firefight that lasted for over 15 hours. Harrell, who was one of the Delta Force team leaders on the ground, was credited with saving the lives of several wounded soldiers and for his strategic and tactical leadership under intense enemy fire. Another one of Major General Harrell’s most notable deployments was in Colombia, where he led forces against the ruthless drug lord and terrorist Pablo Escobar.
Throughout his career, Harrell was known for his quiet professionalism, selfless dedication, and unwavering commitment to mission success. He was also known for his ability to remain calm and composed under pressure and for his exceptional skills as a shooter and a tactical leader.
After retiring from the military in 2008, Harrell went on to work as a security consultant and an advisor to government and private organizations. He also co-founded the Harrell Group, a company that provides leadership and training services to businesses and organizations.
The world mourns the loss of a true hero.
The Major General passed away on Tuesday, February 14th, after an extended illness. Major General Harrell’s life was one of service to our country. As a result, he undoubtedly saved hundreds, if not thousands, of people during his lifetime. As a leader, mentor, and public servant, he left a positive impact on tens of thousands more.
Major General Harrell received numerous awards and decorations for his service, including the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Bronze Star Medal (with V-device and two Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal (with two Oak Leaf Clusters), Joint Service Achievement Medal, and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (with two Oak Leaf Clusters). He also earned the Combat Infantry Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge, the Master Military Free Fall Parachutist Badge, the Pathfinder Badge, the SCUBA Diver Badge, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab.
Major General Harrell was a member of the ETSU ROTC Hall of Fame and the ROTC National Hall of Fame. He was also a recipient of the ETSU Distinguished Alumni in the Armed Forces Award and an inductee in the ETSU College of Business and Technology Hall of Fame. He served on the ETSU Alumni Board and, in 2021, received the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the ETSU National Alumni Association.
Major General Harrell leaves behind his wife and lifelong companion, Jennifer Counts, along with their two daughters, one son, and six grandchildren.