Bulking Up for Baghdad: Soldier to the Core, TOMMY FRANKS Shuns Pomp-And Rallies His Troops

Article excerpt

Byline: Evan Thomas

About halfway through operation Internal Look--the military's just-completed practice run for a real war in Iraq--Gen. Tommy Franks, the overall combatant commander, held a banquet for his senior officers. Some 50 flag-rank officers, generals and admirals gathered at Central Command headquarters in Qatar. Franks was supposed to preside at the head table with the other top brass, but instead he sat over at a small table in the corner, chatting with his top sergeant. An aide approached Franks and asked, a little uncertainly, "Don't you want to sit at the head table?" "Nope," said Franks. "I want to talk to the sergeant major." While the generals wined and dined, Franks went back to amiably jawing with a senior enlisted man.

In the sweep of his command, General Franks is the modern equivalent of a proconsul in the Roman Empire. As the head of Centcom, he is responsible for U.S. military operations in 25 countries from Egypt to Central Asia, and he will direct any invasion of Iraq. But if Franks is Caesar, you could never tell it from his public presence.

When he appears before troops, he does not launch into orations about the glory, duty or higher meaning of it all. He usually cracks a few jokes and plunges into the ranks to shake hands. Franks is known to dislike showboaters and phonies and rarely grants interviews. The standard media rap on Franks is that he is unimaginative and overcautious. But among many top military men, Franks has won a kind of grudging respect for standing up to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on war plans for Iraq. …