Former Delta Force Commander and retired Major General Eldon A. Bargewell has died, age 72, Barbour County Coroner Chip Chapman confirmed.
Bargewell died in a lawnmower accident at his Eufaula, Ala., home on Monday.
Bargewell was pronounced dead at 9:36 p.m. CDT, following when a lawnmower rolled over an embankment behind his house on Barbour creek, said Chapman.
He was an American soldier who fought on the nation’s battlefields from Vietnam to Afghanistan.\
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Mellinger has known Bargewell for 45 years.
“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 non commissioned officers. Among those was Lt. Eldon Bargewell,” Mellinger said. “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).”
Young soldiers like Mellinger were in awe of him.
“He was dedicated, serious, hardworking, and quite humble and unassuming despite having earned the second highest award for valor,” Mellinger said. “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.”
Bargewell began his long, distinguished career with the United States military in 1967, two years after graduating high school in Hoquiam, Wash. in 1965. He completed the Special Forces Qualification Course in 1968 and went on to serve 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.
During his service in Vietnam, Bargewell earned the Distinguished Service Cross in 1971 for “extraordinary heroism” by breaking an assult by enemy forces despite suffering from “multiple fragmentation wounds from an exploding B-40 rocket,” continued to fight, and “insured the safe extraction of his team,” according to the Military Times.
“Shortly after returning from Vietnam in 1972, MG Bargewell attended Infantry Officers’ Candidate School (OCS) which he graduated as the Leadership Honor Graduate of OCS class 3-73 in April 1973. 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),” according to a report by the United States Army Special Operations Command.
The Major General served until 2006, when he retired after a long, decorated career serving his country. Throughout his service, Bargewell was honored with numerous awards, and served in Operation Just cause, Operation Acid Gambit, the War in Afghanistan, and many others, including serving as assistant chief of staff for SFOR military operations in Sarajevo and as director of the center operations, plans, and policies of United States Special Operations Command.
The decorated officer retired to Eufaula, Ala. after a 39 year career, which ended with his final duty assignment, serving as deputy chief of staff for operations in Iraq according to David A. Maurer.