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Former Generals' Take on Petraeus

Lt. Gen. David Petraeus has been shaped by powerful men. Among them are some of the military's most respected officers. One of his mentors is former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. John Galvin.

The two met when Galvin took the command of the 21st Infantry Division in 1981. Then Capt. Petraeus became the general's aide and started on a trial basis. After a month or two, your job is going to change, Galvin told Petraeus. "My mission is to command this division; your mission is to make me better at it than I am."

Galvin tasked Petraeus with visiting soldiers on the base he commanded and reporting back to him. "I don't want you around at my beck and call. When we get there, you go your way and I'll go mine and we'll compare notes when we get back."

Another powerful man that has watched Petraeus' rise is retired Gen. Barry McCaffery. He was once in charge of the U.S. Southern Command and says that mentors like Galvin are usually motivated by two things: "There is… an element of idealism and greed combined on why people shoot up through the ranks. The idealism is that people look at Petraeus and say… 'This guy can help shape national security policy over the coming 20 years.' The greed part is that 'If I engage this guy in my complex duties, I will be able to go home an hour early every night….'"

Galvin is now retired, but still keeps in touch with Petraeus. Their relationship has grown over the years to include their families. And that has given Galvin a deeper understanding of his former aide.

He once mentioned to Petraeus' mother, who was a librarian, that he was interested in the works of Charles Dickens. "She just quietly began picking up loose volumes," Galvin says. "It was like a coat of many colors... fat and thin, tall and short. And I've got my Dickens. She did that… over a period of 15 years."

Asked if he sees a common characteristic between mother and son, Galvin says of his former aide: "He is a giver of things, and not a taker of things. And it's not just sheer generosity, it's that he cares."

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Joel Riddle