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Abizaid Takes U.S. Central Command Reins

By Tech. Sgt. Chris Miller, USAF
National Guard Bureau

6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TAMPA, Fla., July 7, 2003 – Army Gen. John P. Abizaid assumed command of U.S. Central Command from Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks today during a ceremony at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Franks has served as commander since June 2000. During his time, he commanded operations against terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq. Abizaid served as the Central Command's deputy commander.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld officiated the ceremony while Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also attended.

Rumsfeld used the occasion to praise the men and women of the command. "From the Horn of Africa to the mountains of Afghanistan and the heat of Iraq, troops of this command are serving the cause of freedom with dedication and distinction," he said. "We thank each of you for all you do for our country."

The secretary praised Franks for being "a soldiers' soldier." He said the outgoing commander embodies the qualities needed in time of war: "strength, experience, a keen mind, good humor, energy, honor, a deep loyalty for his troops and his country."

Rumsfeld said Franks' service would have a lasting impact on the U.S. armed forces.

The secretary praised Abizaid as "the leader for the 21st century," and called on him to "do our country proud as we know you will."

After the transfer of the command flag, Abizaid thanked Franks for his leadership and confidence. "Today, one of the world's greatest soldiers turns over command," Abizaid said. "General Franks, thank you for your extraordinary service to the nation in both peace and war."

Franks retires following 38 years of service. He has commanded at every level in the Army, and defense officials said he is one of the most innovative commanders in the business.

Abizaid said the greatest honor for any soldier is to command the sons and daughters of America.

"It is a particular honor to embark upon this command in time of war," he said. "Central Command will continue to take the fight to the enemy on his ground. We will continue to do our work with our friends and allies to defeat our mortal enemies."

Abizaid thanked all the service men and women for their devotion to duty. "It is their untiring efforts that will preserve the freedom we so rightly cherish," he said.

Abizaid was commissioned a second lieutenant of Infantry upon graduation from the U.S. Military Academy in June 1973. He has held a number of vital command and staff positions including a tour with the United Nations as operations officer for Observer Group Lebanon.

His military education includes Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced courses, Armed Forces Staff College and a U.S. Army War College Senior Fellowship at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. In his civilian studies, he earned a Master of Arts degree in Area Studies at Harvard University, and was an Olmsted Scholar at the University of Jordan in Amman, Jordan.

His military decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with five oak leaf clusters and the Bronze Star. He earned the Combat Infantryman's Badge, Master Parachutist Badge with gold star, Ranger Tab and the Expert Infantryman's Badge.

U.S. Central Command covers the 25 countries of the Middle East, Central Asia and Horn of Africa. The area is larger than the continental United States and stretches 3,600 miles to the east and west, and 4,600 miles to the north and south.


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Click photo for screen-resolution imageGeneral Tommy Franks relinquishes command of United States Central Command to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. USAF photo by SSgt Norma J. Martinez.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSecretary of Defense gives command of United States Central Command to General John Abizaid as General Tommy Franks and Command Sgt Maj Dwight Brown look on. USAF photo by SSgt Norma J. Martinez.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageGeneral John Abizaid gives the U.S. Central Command flag to Command Sgt. Maj. Dwight Brown after accepting command of CENTCOM from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. USAF photo by SSgt Norma J. Martinez.  
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