Retired Lieutenant Colonel Steve Russell may be best known for leading the battalion that was a central player in the hunt and capture of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, but he has a much broader, more illustrious record of service. Before retiring in the fall of 2006, He served 21 years in the U.S. Army’s Airborne, Light and Mechanized units, crossing the globe on assignments from the Arctic, to the Pacific, to Europe, to the Middle East and back.
His seven years overseas operationally in Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq, earned him numerous awards and decorations including the Legion of Merit; Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device and Oak Leaf Cluster; the Combat Infantryman’s Badge; and the US Army Airborne and Ranger qualifications. His unit was awarded the Valorous Unit Award for its role in the hunt and capture of Saddam.
Born in Del City, OK, 44-year-old Russell earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in public speaking from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, AR, in 1985. That same year he received his commission as an Infantry Lieutenant. Russell served in the following years as an airborne rifle and mortar platoon leader, a Bradley Company Commander, and a tactics instructor at the US Army Infantry School. In 1998, he graduated from the Command and Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, where he also earned a masters degree in history.
He was with the first forces deployed to Kosovo in June 1999 with the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry as the operations officer, responsible for all combat operations and planning which are critical to the success of any mission. Upon return from Kosovo, Russell served as the battalion’s executive officer. In February 2001, Russell was hand-picked to become aide-de-camp to the general in command of all ground forces in the United States, the Forces Command commander.
Later that year, Russell was deployed to Kuwait and became responsible for operational combat planning in the Afghan area of operations. He continued to work in the Afghan arena, moving to Kabul and was the lead planner responsible for the United States plan to raise and train the Afghan National Army. During this time he was also a delegate representing the United States at a United Nations Afghan Security Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Russell returned from Operation Enduring Freedom in August, 2002.
In May 2003, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Russell deployed to Iraq to assume command of the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry “Regulars” and was at the heart of the battle in Tikrit, Iraq, until the spring of 2004. His battalion received regular coverage by the media, and after Hussein’s capture was profiled in two documentaries “Ace in the Hole” (Discovery Channel) and “Saddam on the Run” (BBC Panorama.)
Russell returned to the states still in command the 1st Battalion 22nd Infantry until June, 2005, preparing them for their second deployment that fall. He was then selected to become the US Army Infantry School’s Chief of Tactics at Ft. Benning, Georgia. He turned down promotion to full colonel and a Queens University War College Fellowship in Kingston, Canada to retire in September 2006 and be with his wife and 5 children. He has since founded Vets for Victory, an organization that educates the public about the war on terror, and travels across the country putting a soldier’s voice to the national debate on the war. He is a sought-after speaker, writer and media analyst, and been a major voice in combating defeatist rhetoric at home.