Brig. Gen. Edward M. Reeder Jr. is commanding general of U.S. Army Special Forces (SF) Command and the 1st Special Forces Regiment. He was commissioned in the Infantry through the Appalachian State University ROTC program in 1982.
His command assignments include platoon leader and weapons platoon leader, 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division (Forward) in Germany; commander, Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha, 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in the Republic of Panama; and commander, Special Forces Operational Detachment-Bravo, 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, N.C.
He served as deputy commanding officer, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and commanded the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg. Reeder commanded the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and most recently commanded the Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command in Afghanistan. His staff assignments include company executive officer and battalion adjutant with the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division (Forward) in Germany.
He also served as the aide-de-camp to the commanding general, U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School and the ground operations officer at the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg. Reeder served as the chief of J3 Plans and chief of J3 Training at the U.S. Southern Command and the Joint Interagency Task Force in the Republic of Panama.
Reeder was a battalion and group operations officer and group executive officer for the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg. He was the assistant chief of staff, G3, for the U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne) at Fort Bragg. Reeder also served as the executive officer to the commander, U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla.
His combat tours include the National Civil Defense Advisor in the Republic of El Salvador in 1988. Reeder commanded Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha 786 during Operation Just Cause in 1989 with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) under Task Force Black in the Republic of Panama. He commanded Special Operations Task Force 32 (2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2002 and again in 2003.
Reeder commanded the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (7th Special Forces Group) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007. He also commanded the Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from 2009 to 2010.
The Year in Special Operations’ John D. Gresham interviewed Reeder late in 2011 on the occasion of the President John F. Kennedy Wreath Laying Ceremony at the JFK grave site at Arlington National Cemetery. The event paid tribute to JFK’s vision of a dedicated counterinsurgency force. In a message to Lt. Gen. William P. Yarborough in October 1961, JFK commended the men of the Special Warfare Center on their efforts to prepare a force of unconventional warriors to combat growing threats to our nation.
“The challenge of this old but new form of operations is a real one and I know that you and the members of your command will carry on for us and the free world in a manner which is both worthy and inspiring,” Kennedy wrote. To honor that foresight and the support Kennedy gave to the Green Berets, Reeder led a contingent of Green Berets from the 1960s to the present in the ceremony at Arlington. A wreath in the shape of a Green Beret was placed on Kennedy’s tomb.
The ceremony was a renewal of a tradition carried out for two decades following the assassination of Kennedy until being discontinued in the 1980s due to operational demands.
The Year in Special Operations: Gen. Reeder, can you give us your thoughts as the commander of the U.S. Army’s 1st Special Forces Regiment on where President John F. Kennedy stood with regard to special warfare the day of his visit to Fort Bragg?
Brig. Gen. Edward M. Reeder Jr.: I think John Kennedy had some monumental global security challenges. He was a decorated veteran in World War II and saw in the Army Special Forces a force capable of dealing with the guerrilla forces [of the day]. So the linkage of his vision was incredible, and we live it today. I think he would be proud of us.
Where were Special Forces institutionally as Kennedy’s visit to Fort Bragg on Oct. 12, 1961, was coming together?
Prior to this we had three Special Forces Groups [SFGs]. They were identified as “an elite counterinsurgency force.” But we really formed [up] under John Kennedy and his presidency. We activated the 3rd, 5th, 8th, 11th, 19th, and the 20th groups, [in addition to the three existing SFGs]. When you look at how we define ourselves today, it really can to be understood with how we developed under Kennedy and what we did in Vietnam.