March 28, 2014
Distinguished International Leadership AwardChuck Hagel was sworn in as the twenty-fourth secretary of defense on February 27, 2013, becoming the first enlisted combat veteran to lead the Department of Defense.). Prior to assuming his post at the DOD, Hagel was a distinguished professor at Georgetown University, co-chairman of President Obama's Intelligence Advisory Board, and a member of the Secretary of Defense Policy Board. From 2009-2013, Hagel served as Atlantic Council chairman.
Secretary Hagel joined the United States Army and volunteered to go to Vietnam, rising to the rank of sergeant and serving as an infantry squad leader alongside his brother, with the Army's Ninth Infantry Division in 1968. He earned numerous military decorations and honors, including two Purple Hearts.
Following his tour in Vietnam, Secretary Hagel graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha then became chief of staff to Nebraska Congressman John Y. McCollister. In 1981, he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to serve as deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration, where he pushed for increased benefits for Vietnam veterans suffering from Agent Orange. In the mid-1980s, Secretary Hagel cofounded Vanguard Cellular Systems, Inc., which became one of the largest independent cellular networks in the country. He also served as deputy commissioner general of the United States for the 1982 World's Fair; chief operating officer of the 1990 G7 Summit in Houston, Texas; and president and CEO of the United Service Organizations (USO).
In 1996, Secretary Hagel was elected to the United States Senate and represented Nebraska until 2009. While in the Senate, he was a senior member of the Foreign Relations; Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; and Intelligence Committees. He chaired the Foreign Relations International Economic Policy, Export, and Trade Promotion Subcommittee; and the Banking Committee's International Trade and Finance, and Securities Subcommittees. He also served as the chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and the Senate Climate Change Observer Group.
Secretary Hagel is author of the 2008 book America: Our Next Chapter.