|Central Command Boss Visits Airmen in Saudi|
Central Command Boss Visits Airmen in Saudi
By 1st Lt. Jeff Roberts, 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs.
Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia -- (AFPN) April 24, 2002 -- Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command, visited here April 22 to speak with the troops. Franks, whose schedule had slipped slightly, first apologized for being late. "I apologize for coming in late", he said.
Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command, visits with airmen at Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, on April 22.
Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Linda Hunter
"I was a private in the U.S. Army and understand what it is like to hang around waiting for some S.O.B. to show up," eliciting laughter from the assembled troops.
Franks spoke of the terrorist attacks Sept. 11 and the important role the base plays in meeting global security objectives.
"Most of America woke up the morning of Sept 12 and realized that we were playing the first home game that our country has played since the Civil War," said Franks. "The score was 3,000 to nothing in the first inning and we were behind."
Franks also thanked base people here for their sacrifice in serving far from home, away from the people they love and the places they would rather be.
"You folks have left husbands, wives, sons, daughters, moms, dads, girlfriends, boyfriends and even the mall with 24 movie theaters, to come here halfway around the world to stand in a hot hangar" said Franks. "But know this, you are part of something very, very special. You are doing something that this country hasn’t needed done in a long time. Remember, we are playing a home game now."
Emphasizing the future ramifications of efforts here in the USCENTCOM area of responsibility, the general spoke of the guarantee of freedom for future generations members of the audience were helping to secure.
"At the end of this game, (Operation Enduring Freedom) will be about your kids, your grandkids and their grandkids," he said. " I guarantee that when they grow up, they will know what I knew growing up. (They) will know what it is to grow up in a country that is free and God-blessed, where you can do anything you are man or woman enough to do."
Franks then spent more than an hour shaking hands, signing everything from uniform hats to a football while also posing for hundreds of individual and group pictures. In a short interview prior to his departure, Franks was asked about the importance of the base.
"If you take a look at this whole area, there are 25 countries in here that Central Command has responsibility over," he said. "We have a problem in Afghanistan that everyone knows about. Saddam Hussein in Iraq has been a problem and remains a problem. In order to add stability to the region, it is important that our country and our coalition allies are in a position to work with our friends, specifically in the Gulf Region. "(Prince Sultan Air Base) represents the core of our force that provides that stability," he said. "It is important to our country and to me as a (commander in chief). (The importance) of all these airmen and Patriot Army troops cannot be overstated. You guys are important and I thank you an awful lot for what you do."