BRIG. GEN. MICHAEL XAVIER GARRETT
Bachelor of Science in Criminalistics, 1984
Chief of Staff, 18th Airborne Corps
Fort Bragg, N.C.
First Generation | “I was the first Garrett to graduate from college and was commissioned an officer in the U.S. Army. Although not a great student, I was able to do what I did because of my parents’ belief in education. When I was promoted in August 2009 to brigadier general, I realized their sacrifice. My dad still remains my hero and the standard by which I evaluate all soldiers.”
Father Figure | Garrett’s father, Edward, left school at 16 to join the Army. He worked his way up to the highest rank a non-commissioned officer can achieve, Command Sergeant Major, earning a bachelor’s degree along the way. His dream for his only son was for him to graduate from college.
Destiny | Christened after St. Francis Xavier, Garrett seemed destined to attend the University whose name he bears. Not so. He came to Xavier to accompany his sister. Both had graduated high school in Germany, and their priest recommended Xavier for her. Their father wanted Garrett, who had struggled in college in Germany, to go along, and he decided to give it a try.
Student Daze | “I was a terrible student. There were just so many other things I was interested in. Also, I’m Catholic and never missed Mass, but at Xavier I didn’t go. I remember one of the priests coming to Brockman and saying Mass in the basement where all the guys were skipping church. I remember coming out of my room and there’s Father saying Mass. So I joined them.”
Follow the Leader | An Army brat, Garrett joined ROTC at Xavier but soon learned he wasn’t a very good soldier—yet. During his first summer leadership program at Fort Knox, the drill sergeant said he was a terrible follower. “ROTC teaches you how to be a leader, but you can’t be a good leader without being a good follower. That’s something I have focused on over the last 26 years.”
Overseas | Garrett’s biggest challenge was deploying into southern Iraq as commander of a combat brigade of 3,500 soldiers from Fort Richardson, Alaska. He built the unit from scratch, trained it, equipped it and took it to war as part of the 2006 surge.
The Decider | “In Karbala we had a couple of soldiers killed and a couple of soldiers captured. I could have decided to drop bombs but decided not to. As I weighed the benefit of dropping bombs, I realized it wouldn’t bring back the two soldiers already dead, or the two missing, so I made my decision. The feedback later was everyone in the building was a policeman.”
Death of a Soldier | Garrett lost 53 soldiers in Iraq and attended all but one of their memorial services. A lifelong Catholic, he had a priest assigned to his unit and prayed every night for his soldiers. But when a rocket landed on his driver, Sgt. Adam P. Kennedy, Garrett was deeply affected. He wears a bracelet for Kennedy, a Virginia Military Institute graduate, but he couldn’t bring himself to view the body. “With every one of those deaths, you lose a little bit of yourself,” he says.