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Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell, fmr. Delta Force Cmdr., dies at 72

Major General Eldon Bargewell. (United States Army Special Operations Command/Released)
May 01, 2019

Former Delta Force Commander Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell passed away this week.

Bargewell died on Monday at his Eufaula, Ala., home at the age of 72, following a lawnmower accident on his property, WRBL News reported.

He was a decorated military leader who served in combat from Vietnam to Afghanistan.

He served as Operations Officer, Squadron Executive Officer, Troop commander, Squadron Commander, Deputy Commander, and unit commander for Delta Force between 1996 and 1998, after which he became Commanding General of Special Operations Command Europe, and various other leading roles, including a director at U.S. Special Operations Command.

Bargewell was in charge of a Delta Force Squadron during Operation Desert Storm, and was involved in Operation Acid Gambit, which invaded Panama and rescued an imprisoned American.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross — the second highest honor in the Army — in 1971 for “extraordinary heroism” he displayed during a conflict with an armed hostile group in Vietnam, the commendation says.

The highly decorated Bargewell also earned the Distinguished Service Medal, Army Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, five Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal for valor, three Bronze Star Medal for service, three Purple Hearts, four Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and various others medals and other awards.


Bargewell enlisted in the Army in 1967 just two years after graduating from high school in Washington.

After successfully completing the Special Forces Qualification Course in 1968, he served in the Vietnam War at the Command and Control North launch site in Da Nang as a Non-Commissioned Officer Team Leader for Reconnaissance Team Viper.

Bargewell returned to U.S. soil and completed Infantry Officers’ Candidate School (OCS), graduating as Leadership Honor Graduate of his April 1973 OCS class, a United States Army Special Operations Command release states.

“During his subsequent 33 years, he commanded special operations units from team to Special Operations Command level in Cambodia, Laos, North Viet Nam, the Middle East, El Salvador, Operation JUST CAUSE (Panama), DESERT STORM (Iraq), RESTORE DEMOCRACY and ALLIED FORCE (Bosnia/Kosovo); and as Director of Operations for Operations Restore Hope (Haiti), Enduring Freedom-NATO (Afghanistan) and Iraqi Freedom (Iraq),” the release noted of Bargewell’s career.

Bargewell served until his retirement in 2006.

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Mellinger said, “I remember in 1974 as a young Ranger in the still-forming 2d Ranger Battalion at Fort Lewis seeing and meeting quite a few legendary and highly decorated officers and noncommissioned officers.  Among those was Lt. Eldon Bargewell. Eldon stood out even then amongst those giants, for he had earned a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in 27 September 1971 as a Staff Sergeant while serving with Command and Control (North), Studies and Observations Group, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne).”

Bargewell was someone that younger soldiers looked up to and admired.

Mellinger added, “He was dedicated, serious, hardworking, and quite humble and unassuming despite having earned the second highest award for valor. As the years went by, I became friends with Maj. Gen. Bargewell, and served in Iraq with him.  I was always struck by his quiet professionalism, candor, honesty, dedication and soldierly qualities.  He was the consummate soldier and leader and is respected by all who knew or served with him. He was and remains a legendary figure in special operations and will be sorely missed.”