FORMER COMMANDER, SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND AFRICA; PURPLE HEART RECIPIENT; MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCATE
After 32 years of active duty service to his country in which he received 2 awards for valor, 5 Bronze Star medals, 2 Purple Hearts, led ten deployments, and survived both a bomb blast, numerous fire fights, and a helicopter crash, General Donald C. Bolduc, former Commander, Special Operations Command Africa, is hanging up his fatigues to take on perhaps his most important and challenging mission of advocating for the treatment and shedding the stigma of PTS and mental health problems, both from within the US military as well as the general public.
The general started his career as Private Bolduc on June 29, 1981, exactly 36 years before his final change of command. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, then-Major Bolduc led one of the first groups into Afghanistan, riding on horseback to take control of the southern Afghanistan region from Taliban rule. One of the few survivors of a 2,000-pound bomb that was inadvertently targeted on their own position by friendly fire in December 2001, Bolduc refused to leave the battlefield and continued to take on his next objective. He was later awarded his first of several combat valor awards and a Purple Heart for his injuries.
From 2010 through 2011 as Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force commander, he was credited with the creation of the “Village Stability Operations” concept, a bottom-up stability effort in rural areas and villages in Afghanistan which undermined insurgent influence and control by the Taliban and ensured the stabilization of large areas of the war-torn country through Afghan Local Police.
In his role as Brigadier General, Bolduc was responsible for the full spectrum of Special Operations activities across the African continent and the more than 1,500 U.S. military, interagency and international military personnel operating in 28 countries throughout Africa and Europe. SOCAFRICA is designated as U.S. Africa Command’s lead counter-Violent Extremist Organizations (VEO) operations component. Prior to this, he served on the Joint Staff in the Office of Secretary of Defense and as the Aide to the Secretary of the Army at the Pentagon.
His other awards and decorations include the Defense Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device, Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device, numerous foreign awards, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Special Forces Tab, and Ranger Tab.
Beyond his various positions and awards, nothing brings more meaning to Bolduc’s service than his latest mission to combat the stigmas around post-traumatic stress (PTS). As one of the few military officers, and, at the time, the only active duty general officer on record, to openly discuss his own struggles with PTS, Bolduc has used his leadership position to change the conversation to one of understanding and acceptance through his own experiences. Dubbed “Captain America” and “Everyone’s General” by his fellow officers and soldiers, Bolduc always put country first, and now looks to continue his service off the battlefield sharing his leadership mantra of “Mission, People, Family” and his personal experiences with mental health as a means to educate others.
MISSION, PEOPLE, FAMILY: MILITARY LEADERSHIP FOR CIVILIANS
As the leader of one of the first teams into Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, General Donald Bolduc knows the true meaning of leadership under fire. With a values-based leadership approach originating from his strong family values and the key support of his wife, Bolduc walks audiences through the importance of a leadership construct philosophy surrounding attitude and outlines the three things hugely important to leadership education: merit-based, value-based, and faith-based approach to leadership. Bolduc discusses his famous walking meetings, shaking everyone's hand in a room, and fierce loyalty to those under his command which created the mantra "Mission, People, Family" as the core tenant of his unit's ethos—a mantra by which any organization can learn and implement for a stronger team mentality and a mantra through which leaders can lead and thrive.
THE REAL DONALD: STORIES FROM "EVERYONE'S GENERAL"
With a moral compass firmly set by parochial school and a strong work ethic set by his paternal grandfather, General Donald Bolduc was nurtured to become a leader and one of our nation's elite fighters. With 32 years of active duty and more than 80 months of deployment, General Bolduc shares the storied journey of his service overseas. From fulfilling his dream to become an Army Special Forces operator to creating the "Village Stability Operations" concept in Afghanistan, Bolduc gives audiences a unique insight into the life of an Army general and the leadership mantra he developed over the years to become "Everyone's General".
A GENERAL'S NEW MISSION: CHANGING THE STIGMA OF MENTAL HEALTH
He's had a 2,000-pound bomb dropped near him in Afghanistan. He's had a helicopter crash almost take his life. He's been involved in numerous fire fights and had numerous battlefield explosions detonated all around him over eight combat years. But these traumas and experiences over 12 years took some time to manifest into a recognition of PTS. As the only active duty general officer to speak out on the importance of acknowledging the need for mental health education and treatment, General Bolduc shares his experiences on the battlefield and with managing his soldiers to advocate for a change in the stigma surrounding brain injuries and mental health problems. Service member or not, Bolduc explains the importance of acknowledging and supporting those with mental health problems as a common and manageable illness.
In the Media:
New York Times: A General’s New Mission: Leading a Charge Against PTSD