David Petraeus officially retired from the military picking up the Distinguished Service medal at his retirement ceremony Wednesday. After 37 years in the service, the soldier the Associated Press called "arguably the most consequential Army leader of his generation" will mothball his uniform after the midday ceremony, and will start as CIA director next Tuesday. Petraeus, a West Point graduate and former professor there, led U.S. forces in Iraq, then took over in Afghanistan in 2010 after General Stanley McChrystal resigned. Aside from his high-profile command positions, he's best known for rewriting the Army's counterinsurgency manual, developing and solidifying tactics that deputy defense secreatry William Lynn said at his retirement ceremony "enabled the world's most remarkable military to wage a new kind of war." The manual became a best seller, as Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, quipped at his retirement cermoney. "Only David Petraeus could take a military manual and make it a great stocking stuffer." The AP has details on his decision to retire before taking over at the CIA.
Although he could have stayed in uniform at CIA, Petraeus, 58, chose to shed it to avoid what some might see as the militarization of intelligence.
"I have a certain profile in various parts of the world," he told the Pentagon Channel in an interview Aug. 18. "And were I to travel there in uniform, it might create some confusion, frankly, as, you know, 'Who is this guy? He's still in uniform. Is he the director of the CIA or is he actually something else?'"
Petraeus reportedly discussed the CIA post with President Barack Obama for months before it was announced publicly that he would take it, as part of a shuffle that saw defense secretary Robert Gates retire and sitting CIA director Leon Panetta take over at the Department of Defense. For those feeling nostalgic, the Army put up a Flickr overview of Petraeus's career.