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CENTCOM Change of Command
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, CENTCOM Headquarters, MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, FL, Monday, July 07, 2003

SEC. RUMSFELD: Good afternoon, General and Mrs. Franks, General and Mrs. Abizaid, General Mike DeLong, distinguished Ambassadors, thank you so much for being with us here today.  Congressman Jim Davis, the distinguished and talented vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Pete Pace.  I welcome all of the distinguished guests here today, and I particularly want to greet the senior enlisted leaders, and ladies and gentlemen. What a privilege it is to be able to salute the men and women of U.S. Central 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. We thank each of you for all that you do for our country.

And my thanks to our coalition partners. There are representatives here at CENTCOM of more than 50 nations, clear evidence that we are, indeed, engaged in a global war on terror. Thank you, each of you, for your friendship and your steadfastness.

When war comes, you look for certain special qualities in the people you'll be working with. General Tom Franks embodies those qualities: strength, experience, a keen mind, energy, honor, good humor and a deep loyalty to his troops and to his country. Tom Franks is truly a soldier's soldier.

After the attacks on September 11th, General Franks and his team responded. They quickly developed a plan for a new set of challenges, and then skillfully led coalition forces in overthrowing the Taliban regime in their rugged, landlocked stronghold. This year again, Tom Franks crafted an innovative war plan. And again, his team brilliantly led coalition forces, fighting their way to the regime's doorstep in Baghdad in a matter of weeks.

And even with the large and growing number of forces on the Iraqi border, General Franks achieved something seemingly impossible: tactical surprise. That surprise, and the speed and flexibility of his plan, helped to remove a brutal regime in less than a month, without massive loss of civilian life, without tens of thousands of refugees fleeing their country, without Iraq striking its neighbors with Scud missiles, and without the destruction of roads, bridges, dams and oil fields. Remarkable accomplishments.

But Operation Iraqi Freedom was more than successful. It was also transformational. Because of the leadership of his fine team, it was joint. In past wars, the services and coalition partners essentially tried to deconflict from each other, to stay out of each others' way, but in Iraq, because the services functioned in a truly joint manner, there was a leverage that was distinctly different, an ability to project power with speed and precision the likes of which had not been seen.

Tom Franks and his team stand as our nation's -- indeed the world's most joint warfighters. The team in Operation Iraqi Freedom developed joint warfighting in ways that will change how our forces train and fight for many years to come. So General Franks may be leaving the service, but his service will have lasting impact on the U.S. armed forces for many decades.

General Tom Franks, you have my respect. You have my friendship. We wish you and your lovely Cathy the very best in the years ahead.

Now we turn to General John Abizaid. I know of no one more qualified to follow in Tom Franks' very large footsteps. John Abizaid brings an extraordinary combination of talent and experience to this critical post. Army Ranger, Grenada, the Gulf War, Bosnia, and, more recently CENTCOM deputy during Operation Iraqi Freedom. An Arabic speaker. He's the leader for the 21st century.

Coalition forces have now removed two terrorist regimes from power. These were two difficult battles in a long and dangerous struggle: the global war on terror, a war that will not be over soon.

The liberation of Afghanistan and of Iraq is complete. Those two regimes have been removed from power and will not be permitted to return. But the war against terrorism, against the remnants of those two regimes, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and indeed, against terrorists across the globe, continues. And it will go on for some time.

As President Bush, our commander in chief, put it last week, from the beginning, we have known the effort would be long and difficult and that our resolve would be tested. We know that sacrifice is unavoidable. We will not be distracted, and we will prevail.

Each day our troops, young men and women, risk their lives voluntarily across the globe to defend us from terror. They deserve our country's best leadership. They have had the best leadership in General Tom Franks and his superb team, and they will have the best under General John Abizaid.

Tom Franks, congratulations. Godspeed to you and Cathy. And General John Abizaid, do our country proud, as we know you will.

And may God bless the United States of America.


STAFF: Ladies and gentlemen, General Tommy R. Franks, United States Army.

GEN. FRANKS: (Cheers, applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Mr. Secretary, sir, thank you. (Applause continuing.) Thanks to all of you.

How about that Ms. Rebecca Lynn Howard?  Have you ever heard anything like that in your life? (Applause.)

Well, I'm terribly proud of the United States Army Band. Thanks a lot for being here. Very proud of this color guard, also. (Applause.)

And to my friend, General Michael Rifle DeLong, commander of troops, thanks a lot for not only what you have done, Mike; thanks for what you're doing standing there and honoring us today. You're, in fact, quite special. And Command Sergeant Major Dwight Brown, my wingman, thanks for the years, thanks for the great work with all these magnificent troops.

Mr. Secretary, thanks for your leadership, thanks for your friendship, thanks for your morality, thanks for caring. Sir, thanks for being here today to officiate in this ceremony.

Ambassadors, excellencies, distinguished guests, coalition members, from, as the secretary said, more than 50 countries, members and family members of the United States Central Command, thanks to all of you for being here today to witness the assumption of command of General John Abizaid.

To my family members, from the Franks clan, and the Carleys, and the Ellises and the Mahers, the Wilsons, the Matlocks, my aunt, Ms. Pauline Borges, who turns 82 years young today, God bless, and thanks to you for being here with us as well. Cathy and I are simply delighted to be able to get together with family.

To all of you, thanks for your love, your support, your service to nation, indeed, your patriotism. We're honored by your presence, and I'm honored to stand by John Abizaid, the man who brings the right stuff to this work, to this magnificent organization.

John and Kathy, we're proud of you. We call you friends. This is your day.

To Cathy Franks, today is the day. (Laughter, applause.) In fact, today is the day that I make myself an honest man, having told my wife 34 years ago that I was going to leave the United States Army. (Laughter.) Today I'm an honest man.

Cathy, thanks for your love, your support. And as Secretary Rumsfeld said, thanks for your service to this nation. Man has no greater treasure than family. You're the best. And I'm a lucky guy.

What I'd like to do now, even though it is a bit redundant, is in cavalry tradition, I would like to ask that a dozen long-stemmed yellow roses be presented to Cathy, as well as bouquets to the previous generation: her mom, Ms. Gaynelle Gray; to our daughter, the next generation, Jackie Matlock; and to our granddaughter, Anne Katherine. (Applause.)

Today is a very stressful time for me. When I woke up this morning, I had a Boeing business jet, several aides, several sedans, and now I'm worrying about how in the hell I'm going to get home. (Laughter, applause.)

It's been an exciting three years, as the secretary described it. When we arrived, the Taliban and al Qaeda controlled Afghanistan, and Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq with an iron hand. What a difference 22 months makes. (Applause.)

Twenty-two months ago, the United States of America -- in fact, the free world -- looked into the face of evil. We came on that day to recognize our vulnerability, and the world came to recognize America with attitude.

As President Bush said recently, bring it on. That's been the attitude of this command, of this country, of the members of this powerful coalition, for some 22 months. And we'll still stand, and we'll still say it. Rough road behind, rough road ahead. Bring it on.

Our nation's changed. We've been blessed with leadership that evidences character and moral courage, depth of resolve seldom seen. We see in our country today the evidence of a core value that, in my view, was dormant for a time: patriotism, a core value; constant, deep patriotism by those who salute the flag and by those who wave the flag.

And we see love, we see appreciation, and we see caring. We see support for our men and women in uniform -- selfless men and women, who continue today to answer the call. We mourn the loss of those who have given their lives in the cause of freedom. In fact, we join families and loved ones who celebrate the contributions which they have made to all of us today and freedom-loving people around the world as we enjoy the blessings of liberty.

I look across this audience, and I looked across the faces of my friends during the reception, and I see the power of America. I see patriots from every walk of life, and I see patriots from every corner of this country. Some have worn the uniform. Some in our most senior military capacities wear the uniform today. Such respect I have for all of you -- men, women, children who support America, patriots who support the troops, from Secretary Don Rumsfeld to the Bayshore Patriots; to national, state, local leaders; members of foundations which support our troops, FISHER and INTREPID; to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, my friend from United Arab Emirates; ambassadors; troopers; friends, old and young; all of you who have given so much and asked so little. Friends like Wayne Newton, the heart of USO and CAT (ph). Thanks for being here, Wayne. To Mr. Robert DeNiro, Mr. Neal McCoy, to members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Storm, world champions from Tampa, America. Thanks for being here. You honor us so.

To my friends from as far back as enlisted days and officer candidate school, and from as recently as the past few months as we have served together. Jack Keane, thanks for being here. Pete Schoomaker, thanks for being here. God bless you, and thank you. So many more.

I said recently that America stands at a crease in history -- 225-plus years behind us, we ask ourselves, what will the next 225 years bring? We're reminded every day by the loss of brave men and women who serve in the global war on terrorism that freedom isn't free. And I'm frequently asked by members of the media, is the prize we seek in the global war on terrorism worth the price that we're having to pay for it? And I have answered, and I'll continue to answer, "You bet," because the prize we seek in this time in history is a way of life.

It's called freedom, liberty. Indeed, it's about kids, grandkids, generations as yet unborn. Freedom is worth whatever it takes. Future generations, I predict, will continue to pay the price for freedom in this wonderful, this magnificent experiment we call democracy. In the words of the poet, miles to go before we sleep.

When we ask ourselves what does it cost, is it worth the cost, I'm reminded of a comment recently by Coach John Gruden of the Buccaneers, when he said, "Sometimes you think about things like this, and you recognize that all it takes is all you've got." (Pause.) Powerful. Powerful comment. All it takes is all you've got.

Men and women in uniform, we are so proud of you and your service around the world -- in Afghanistan, in Iraq, perhaps in places yet unknown, the global war on terrorism. Indeed, we'll go the miles. Patriots and soldiers will pay the price. And as we are today, we will be ever in their debt. We'll remember, to be sure, the more than 300 who have given their lives on battlefields since 9/11/01. But we will never forget the 3,000 who lost their lives on 9/11/01.

John Abizaid, Kathy, members of the Abizaid family, we're honored to stand with you. We will be with you as you remember. The United States Central Command is in good hands. America is in good hands.

As Cathy and I close this chapter, I have asked Mr. Neal McCoy to help me express to you what Cathy and I think of all of you.

With that, Neal, if you would, please? And I'll close by saying may God continue to bless America. (Applause.)

(Musical interlude.)

GEN. ABIZAID: Thank you.  I promise I won’t sing.  (Laughter.)  I know my family is very thankful for that, especially my brother Art over there.  Mr. Secretary, thanks, sir, for being here.  General Pace, thank you, sir.  General Franks, Mrs. Franks, Mike DeLong, thank you for leading this great formation and thank you Mike for being my wingman during the war.  I can’t think of a finer Marine or a finer person that serves anywhere in this armed forces.  (Applause.)  Members of the coalition, leaders of the great state of Florida and the city of Tampa, especially the city of Tampa, I want you to know that I attended the third victory in a row for the Devil Rays the other night, and I believe that my being there made it happen. (Laughter, applause.)

You notice I didn't go yesterday. (Laughter.)

Distinguished guests, men and women of Central Command, thank all of you for being here today.

My friends and family traveled from all parts of the country to be here. My son-in-law came in from Afghanistan 24 hours ago. My son came about a week ago, from Korea; my daughter from Qatar; and my family from all over the place. I know they came for two reasons. The number-one reason is to see the media stars, the secretary of Defense and General Franks. The number-two reason is, they heard Robert De Niro was going to be here. (Laughter.) And the number- three reason was one of utter surprise that I'm standing up here. (Laughter.)

Tradition dictates that the incoming commander makes brief remarks, and I shall adhere to that tradition.

To the soldiers of the great Army Band, thank you very much.

Today one of America's greatest soldiers turns over command. General Franks, thank you for your extraordinary service to the nation in both peace and war. The highlight of my professional life, sir, has been to serve as your deputy during an unprecedented campaign. Thank you for your leadership and confidence.

Cathy Franks, thank you for setting the example of dedication and compassion. Your care and concern for our families over the years inspires all of us.

The Franks will be sorely missed at CENTCOM. Good luck to you, sir. Good luck to you, Cathy. Godspeed to you and your family.

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. All of us here today are both mindful of and thankful for the sacrifices of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who serve so proudly throughout CENTCOM's area of responsibility. Some of these young people are fighting and winning campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, with skill and courage, while still others serve proudly in countless other missions on the air, on the land and at sea. They endure the hardship of duty far from home with the quiet professionalism which is the hallmark of our military forces.

We can never forget that some have made the ultimate sacrifice. Words alone can never adequately reflect our thanks, nor reflect our admiration for the devotion to our nation and its ideals.

Yet we know their work is not done, and we understand that there may be equally tough and arduous campaigns ahead. Today we ask our servicemen and -women to help stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan. We know that this work is difficult, and we know that this work is dangerous, but we know they can do it, and they can do it better than anyone on Earth.

We know success there will require not only military muscle but the focused economic, political, intelligence and diplomatic efforts of the United States and of our friends and allies in the region and throughout the world. We also know that the ultimate success will rest in the hands of courageous Iraqis and Afghanis, who will lead their people to a better future.

Just as our fathers' generation found patience, courage and tenacity to endure a long and costly global war for the survival of our way of life, so must our children's generation bear the burden of defeating those who have brought war to our own homeland.

Mr. Secretary, CENTCOM 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. We will defeat these terrorists who kill innocents. We will defeat these murderers who spare no faith. We will continue to respect and value the diverse and rich cultures of the many peoples of our proud region. We will continue our efforts to provide stability in Afghanistan and Iraq. But we know the war against terror that has been thrust upon us is a war without borders and a war that requires the application of all our might.

Let me close by thanking all of you for coming today. But most importantly, let me close by thanking all of our servicemen and -women for their devotion to duty. It is their untiring efforts that will preserve the freedom we so rightly cherish. It is their willingness to endure hardship in faraway, hostile places that lets our children sleep peacefully at home. In the course of my duties at CENTCOM, I've had the opportunity to see and talk to our troops in places as far removed as Tampa and Baghdad, Kabul and Mosul. It is their optimism, their professionalism and their unwavering courage that makes me certain that victory is assured.

God bless our president, God bless the secretary of Defense, our men and women, both civilian and military, who serve, their families, and our great nation. (Applause.)