GREGG K. KAKESAKO / GKAKESAKO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Lt. Gen. Joseph Peterson kissed his mom, Marilyn, as his wife, Ann, and their son Kevin watched at a ceremony yesterday at Fort Shafter. Peterson became the first soldier of Hawaiian ancestry to wear three stars. CLICK FOR LARGE
From Palolo to 3-star general
Lt. Gen. Joseph Peterson is the first Hawaiian to attain that rank
CALLING himself the "hanabata boy from Palolo," Joseph Peterson became the first person of Hawaiian ancestry to wear the three stars of an Army lieutenant general yesterday.
Peterson was surrounded by more than 100 soldiers, family, friends, Army officials and state dignitaries during the pinning ceremony at Fort Shafter.
THE MAKING OF A 3-STAR GENERAL
Lt. Gen. Joseph Peterson's path to leadership:
1968: Saint Louis High School
1972: Santa Clara University
1980: Chaminade University
July 1983: commander, 2nd Battalion, 35th Armor, 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized)
August 1998: commander, 3d Brigade, 1st Armored Division
July 2001: assistant division commander (support), later acting commanding general, later assistant division commander (maneuver), 3d Infantry Division (Mechanized)
August 2003: commanding general, 1st Cavalry Division
October 2005: vice director for operations, The Joint Staff, Washington, D.C.
October 2006: commanding general, Civilian Police Assistance Training Team, Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq
Source: U.S. Army
"The hanabata (runny-nose) boy from Palolo is here today because of his family," Peterson said after his 84-year-old mother, Marilyn, and wife, Ann, pinned three stars on his combat uniform. Also present was his son, Airman 1st Class Kevin Peterson, who is stationed in Alaska.
Peterson, 56, told the crowd that he owed his three stars to the soldiers, family members and friends who supported him during his 34-year career.
Peterson said his extended family had taught him "values, love and commitment." He talked about his elementary class of 1964 at Star of the Sea, asking those present to stand, followed by his fellow 1968 graduates at Saint Louis High School and Santa Clara University class of 1972.
Among them was Buddy Los Banos, who along with Peterson played football at Saint Louis when the school swept football, basketball and baseball titles in the old Interscholastic League in 1966. Peterson was an all-star tackle and president of his Saint Louis senior class.
He also recognized four senior noncommissioned soldiers who mentored him in the Army, including retired Command Sgt. Maj. Charles "Pohaku" Wilhelm.
Peterson said Wilhelm had taken him and Antonio Taguba under his wing, teaching them about Army life. Taguba, a Leilehua High School graduate, is now a deputy assistant secretary of defense for readiness, training and mobilization, and as a major general authored the report on the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
"I am rich because of you," Peterson told Wilhelm after pulling him out of the audience to share the stage.
Wilhelm said he saw the two young officers the first day they arrived at Fort Knox. "I knew right away," Wilhelm said following the ceremony. "I knew they had the makings from the beginning. ... They had something."
"It comes to me as no surprise that they have succeeded and done so tremendously well," he added.
During the presentation, Lt. Gen. John Brown, commanding general of Army forces in the Pacific, recounted Peterson's career, saying he had known about him for 30 years and served with him in the 3rd Armored Division.
GREGG K. KAKESAKO / GKAKESAKO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Lt. Gen. Joseph Peterson, left, and Lt. Gen. John Brown chatted yesterday with Buddy Los Banos, a long-ago teammate of Peterson's on the 1967 Saint Louis High School championship team. Los Banos was quarterback and Peterson was an offensive tackle. CLICK FOR LARGE
"This is a great, great day to have a fine warrior leader come home to Hawaii to be recognized and given a position of tremendous responsibility," Brown said.
As deputy commander for the Army Forces Command at Fort McPherson, Ga., Peterson's chief responsibility is ensuring the readiness of the Army and looking out for the welfare of its soldiers. In Iraq most recently, Peterson was responsible for U.S. efforts to train the Iraqi police force, and worked as an adviser to the Iraqi minister of the interior.
Brown said Peterson was responsible for training 200,000 Iraqi police officers.
"He's the right man for the right time," Brown said.
Peterson's uncle, retired Hawaii Air National Guard Maj. Gen. Arthur Ishimoto, said that as a child his nephew was different. "He was always compassionate.
"He's a people person," Ishimoto said. "The people in the Army like him because he is a people person. ... There are greater things in store for him."
The only other person of Hawaiian ancestry to wear three stars is retired Vice Adm. Bob Kihune. Other notable Hawaiian officers are Maj. Gens. Alex Lum and Edward Richardson, and Brig. Gens. Irwin Cockett, Dwight Kealoha, Bernard Watson and John Aiona.