University alumnus General B.B. Bell, one of only 11 four-star generals in the U.S. Army and the commanding general of U.S. Forces Korea, retired earlier this week at Fort Knox. His military career spanned 39 years with service in Europe, the Middle East and Fort Knox on several occasions.
Bell served as the commanding general of Fort Knox from 1999 to 2001, and he was greeted by hundreds of fellow soldiers, government service civilians and area community members at his retirement ceremony. The Army chief of staff joined the ceremony, which also honored Bell’s wife, Katie, by presenting her with flowers from a cavalryman on horseback.
Bell is believed to be the first four-star general to have a retirement ceremony at the 90-year-old Army installation. Retiring four-star generals typically have their retirement ceremonies at their current command or Washington, DC.
The Oak Ridge, Tennessee, native plans to spend his retired life in Tennessee.
Saying he fully expected to leave the military after four years of service, he and his wife firmly decided after 10 years, he would return to civilian life. “Before you knew it, it was 20 years, so we didn’t do very well on that promise,” Bell joked.
Considering Bell and Katie packed their bags and moved 32 times in 39 years of service, Bell has a unique perspective on the way the rest of the world views Americans.
“First, foreigners see it is a place of freedom and democracy where everybody can achieve their goals and dreams. That is a universal belief about America. We are a revered country in that regard,” Bell said. “All too frequently on the other end the spectrum is a misunderstanding that we are not respectful of the plight of the rest of the world, that we are excessive consumers. So it is kind of a dichotomy—most people that I have met have enormous respect for America, our way of life, and the opportunities we provide our citizens.”
Saying Americans are sandwiched between two oceans on the east and west and we are not much for travelling north and south, Bell said the population of our country is by default isolationist, and largely unfamiliar with the rest of the world. He said there is the sense that America can take care of itself without engaging with the rest of the world.
“And of course that is a huge mistake, because the world is a globalized place for business and commerce and totally depends on the international community for trade. Most people would never subscribe to the fact that the price of a McDonald’s hamburger is largely determined by sales of McDonalds’ hamburgers overseas, and not necessarily by the sales in the United States.
“Most people suggest we can control our own destiny. And the facts are, we cannot,” Bell said.