Major General Mike Pfister December 20, 1936 - October 12, 2020
A life of duty devoted to family and the nation he loved unconditionally ended peacefully for MG (Ret.) Cloyd H. "Mike" Pfister on October 12, 2020 in Ft. Belvoir, VA. For the past 12 years, MG Pfister was comforted and supported by his partner Annette Woodward of McLean, VA. Respected by his peers for leadership grounded in selflessness, discretion and discipline, MG Pfister served in the United States Army, mostly as an Intelligence Officer, after graduating from Oberlin College in 1957 until his retirement in 1993. As important-if not more so-to MG Pfister were his children, family, friends and colleagues. His gift of separating his profession from his personal life led a long-time friend to remark, "he never said anything about his work," even to his closet family members. Another commented, "Mike really took American secrets seriously." A young LT Pfister witnessed the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 as commander of a security battalion along the West & East German border, and its fall 28 years later as a newly promoted Major General serving as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence for U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army. As Commander of the Army's Field Station in Berlin from 1982-1984, a colleague remembered COL Pfister as being "one of the top spies in Berlin." In his final assignment as Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, Intelligence for the Army, he coordinated U.S. intelligence with foreign policy after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This had a lasting effect in elevating the roles and understanding of honest, undiluted information to inform national and international decision-making. MG Pfister's career touched American national security interests in all parts of the globe. After earning a MA in International Relations at American University, he served in sensitive roles in Vietnam from 1968-69. He later served on the Politico-Military staff at the Pentagon and helped prepare the groundwork for President Nixon's historic mission to China. When serving on the Pentagon's Middle East Policy Staff, his issues included the Iranian Revolution and Hostage Crisis and assisting the implementation of the Camp David Accords as he worked closely with Jordan's King Hussein and Egypt's President Anwar Sadat. Congress approved his promotion to Brigadier General to become the Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School in Fort Huachuca, AZ. From 1986-88, MG Pfister was Director of Intelligence for U.S. Central Command. When his wife, Gail, was diagnosed in 1996 with myeloma, a rare cancer, he became an effective advocate, leading to a friendship with Don and Annette Woodward, founders of the northern Virginia myeloma support group. Mr. Woodward was Acting Deputy Chief of Mission in Kabul during the Saur Revolution in 1978, organized by the Afghan Communist Party and a prelude to the Soviet Invasion a few months later. The bond of a former intelligence officer and former diplomat was strong. Mike and Annette both lost their spouses to myeloma. To better understand the breadth of his personal relationships, it must be understood that a long military career creates bonds that civilians often cannot entirely comprehend. It creates intense, deep, life-long connections in short, intense spurts of time. After their service, physical and temporal distance often keeps them apart. But MG Pfister made maintaining those connections a central principle of his life. In retirement, MG Pfister became active in alumni and scholarship activities of Oberlin, regularly attended his Officers Candidate School reunions, and eagerly anticipated his annual fishing trips to Newfoundland, Canada. MG Pfister was highly decorated for his significant contributions to national security and was inducted into the Military Intelligence Corps Hall of Fame in 1994. West Germany recognized him with its highest award for Allied officers, the Ehrenkreuz Der Bundeswehr in Gold, for risking life and limb with exceptional heroism in defense of the nation and its allies. MG Pfister is survived by his children, Gabriele Matthewman, of Surrey, England; Catherine Slagle (George) of Allen, TX; Michael Pfister (Audrey) of Haymarket, VA; and Romi Brozeit (Greg) of Fairlawn, OH; step-children Eric Williams (Cory) and Lori Williams of Charlotte, NC; siblings, Mary Benton (Bruce) of Mechanicsburg, PA; Walter Pfister (Judy, deceased) of Bradford, PA; and Josef Pfister (Cheri) of Battleground, WA, and 12 grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his first wife and mother of his four children, Rita Geiger of Heilbronn, Germany, his second wife Gail Williams Pfister, his brother, Richard Pfister of Camden, NY, and parents Rudolf and June Pfister of Bradford, PA. Funeral services with full military honors will take place at Arlington National Cemetery in three-to-six months.
Lt. General Hughes wrote that “Mike was a wonderful man, a great "old-school" soldier, astute mentor and dependable friend. He and I served together, cried together, and wrangled together, over quite a few years in different assignments and circumstances. He always gave me honest unsparing advice and counsel and when appropriate, criticism. I liked him very much, I respected him completely, and I'll miss seeing him again. When I think of him my thoughts immediately go to his final assignment on active duty at the old ACSI office in the Pentagon. He was the steely and sure voice of experience and reason. He was also a former J-2 at US Central Command, a position we had in common, and he always told me how much he appreciated having had that assignment. Condolences to his family and his friends. I send my final salute with my highest regard. See you at the next rally point Mike. Montana 6 out.”
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