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Maj. Gen. Michael R. Fenzel

Vice Director for Strategy, Plans and Policy, J5

Army Maj. Gen. Michael R. Fenzel stands for an official portrait.

Major General Michael R. Fenzel was commissioned an infantry officer in 1989 from the Johns Hopkins University, where he received a Bachelors Degree in Economics. Originally from Chicago, Illinois, he earned Masters Degrees from Harvard University & U.S. Naval War College, and a PhD in National Security Studies from the Naval Postgraduate School.

Fenzel served as a leader at the platoon level for four years in Fort Benning, Georgia, including deploying to Operations Desert Shield/Storm and time in the 75th Ranger Regiment, before serving as aide-de-camp to the Deputy Commanding General. He moved to Vicenza, Italy for the next four years, where he commanded at the company level. His service during this time included participation in Operation Joint Endeavor in Tuzla, Bosnia (1995-96) and Operation Assured Response through the defense of the US Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia (1996) amid their Civil War. 

Fenzel next served as a strategist to the Army Chief of Staff, before moving across the Potomac to serve as Director for Transnational Threats and then Director for Combating Terrorism at the National Security Council on the White House staff (2000-01). While on the NSC, his portfolio included U.S. Citizens Taken Hostage Abroad, (countering) Terrorist Financing, Facilitating Aid to Massoud in Afghanistan, and coordinating U.S. Counter-Terrorism policy in Europe, South America, Africa and East Asia; his tour included service through coordination of US government response to the attacks of 9/11.

He then returned to Italy for another six years, where he served at the Battalion and Brigade level through Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-04), where he took part in the parachute assault into Northern Iraq; then served as Deputy Director of Military Operations (Deputy CJ3) to CJTF76 in Bagram, Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom, 2004-05); and finally as Deputy Commander for Regional Command East in Afghanistan (2005-06) in Khost Province, where he directed activities of the eight Provincial Reconstruction Teams within the command. Upon return, he assumed Battalion Command in Italy, which included a 15 month tour to Afghanistan's Eastern Paktika Province (2006-08).

Fenzel commanded both an Armored Brigade (2010) in the 1st Armored Division and an Airborne Brigade (2012-14) before serving as Chief of Staff (2014-15) and then Deputy Commanding General in the 82nd Airborne Division.  Subsequently, he served as Director of Strategic Plans (CJ5) for U.S. Forces Afghanistan and NATO Operation Resolute Support. He most recently served as the Senior Military Advisor to the Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, U.S. Department of State.

Fenzel is author of No Miracles: The Failure of Soviet Decision Making in the Afghan War (Stanford University Press, December 2017), “Mustafa Kemal at Gallipoli” in By Their Deeds Alone: America’s Combat Commanders on the Art of War (Ballantine Books), “The Area Under the Curve: Developing Strategic Leaders to Win in a Complex World” (Military Review), "Harmony in Battle: Training the Brigade Combat Team for Combined Arms Maneuver" (Military Review), and many other publications and articles.

His awards and associations include the Bronze Star for Valor, Army Commendation Medal for Valor, Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award, Presidential Service Badge, and White House Fellow. He is a former Term Member, Senior Military Fellow, and current Life Member at the Council on Foreign Relations. Fenzel is married and they have four children.


(Current as of January 2020)