Battleland

A Final Salute for (Insert Nickname Here)

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Army General David Petraeus / Navy photo by Joshua Treadwell

There’s going to be plenty of Petraeus pageantry and partying all around Pentagon property Wednesday. That’s because Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is hosting a no-holds barred retirement ceremony for Army General David Petraeus after 37 years in uniform. “I’ve been privileged to command organizations that are absolutely full of wonderful men and women in uniform who are supported by equally wonderful family member back home,” Petraeus recently told Battleland. “Our country has an enormous debt of gratitude to these individuals.”

Wednesday, his military colleagues return the favor. Petraeus is perhaps the best-known and most highly-regarded Army general since Colin Powell — or maybe even Ike Eisenhower. You can tell his retirement ceremony is going to be a big deal by the guidance the Pentagon press shop has issued:

Satellite trucks will be swept and positioned the day prior to the event.  Cabling can take place the morning of the ceremony…Media will be directed to a designated parking area and shuttled to/from Summerall Field.

Sure, all the hoopla is nice, although it’s a safe bet Petraeus will declare he disdains it sometime during the festivities. What’s more telling is the lightning rod he has been for the country’s military policies over the past five years. Love him or loathe him, he has generated a rucksack of nicknames he’ll take with him into retirement, and next week to the 7th floor director’s office at CIA headquarters, his first civilian job:

As a cadet at West Point, he was known as Peaches. “When I was a kid playing Little League baseball, and you know, you’ve got a name like Petraeus, nobody could pronounce that, and I sort of looked probably a little like a peach in those days when I was the age of eight or nine, and came up to bat in the Little League game, and the announcer said, `Now at bat is David P-P- P-Peaches,'” Petraeus explains. “And it stuck. And if you asked my classmates at West Point, which is about as far as it went, you know, about me, they will always respond with that.”

As a young officer, the 100-plus soldiers in his company called him Squad Leader Six — a not-nice reference to his micro-management (“Six” represents commander in radio code; a “squad leader” is an enlisted troop in charge of the Army’s smallest unit of about eight).

Subordinates who felt the pressure of working for a smart boss were known to call him The Professor (that Ph.D. from Princeton in history — his dissertation was The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam — helped him earn that one).

Those who thought he was just a little too self-satisfied, including Iraqis in Mosul (where he commanded early on in the Iraq war), as well as assorted U.S. military officers, called him King David.

Iraqis who never tired of getting cash from his commanders called him Ab Fuluus — Father of Money.

Liberal activists, who turned on him as he tried to push the Bush Administration’s Iraq surge strategy in 2007, took out a full-page ad in the New York Times labeling him General Betray Us.

Soldiers working under his command had several nicknames — CG (for commanding general), The Boss (self-explanatory) or P-4 (the latest things in military nomenclature: the first letter of the officer’s last name, linked to the number of stars on his shoulder).

But perhaps the most telling nickname came from some of the grunts who worked for him: P-Daddy.

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