Sunday, October 18, 2009

Interview with Admiral Fallon

This is an edited transcript of the interview. Do you think he's a little gun shy of interviews? - BK

When Retired Adm. William Fallon came back to Jacksonville for an award ceremony Saturday night, much had changed since the days when he was aide to the commander of Fleet Air Jacksonville.

Fallon rose from that position to become a four-star admiral, eventually running Central Command, overseeing military operations in the Middle East, Central Asia, Horn of Africa and combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired and was replaced by Gen. David Petraeus after an article in Esquire magazine painted him as at odds with President George Bush over Iran.

The admiral was in town to receive the Distinguished Sea Service Award from the Naval Order of the United States.

He sat down with the Times-Union before the ceremony. This is an edited transcript of the interview.

Q: Why is it important to look at the history and the heritage of the Navy?

The U.S. became first and foremost a maritime power, and in that time, we have become the guarantor of this vast commercial enterprise. ... I think it's well we remember we wouldn't be where we are without their services and sacrifices.

Q: Where do you see Afghanistan going, based on your experience?

First, we ought to remind ourselves how quickly things change. ...It's difficult for people who are not there ... experiencing these changes to actually distinguish that ... I would say very similar things are occurring in Afghanistan. It's not Iraq; it's very different. But things have changed.

Q: Do you see a need for more troops going to Afghanistan?

Certainly, for training. The time I was there, I had a need for more troops that we could muster and the primary need was for training.

Q: Do you regret the interview with Esquire?

The problem was the author wrote it in the way that it was a direct challenge to the commander in chief, my boss, daring him to fire me for insubordination.

Q: You were the first admiral to hold your position at Central Command.

Despite the fact that we're involved in ground wars, there's a number of admirals in key positions, including heading up European Command and Pacific Command.

Q: What does that say about what the Navy brings to the fight?

(W)e put a lot of responsibility on people and we have them often operate in situations where they don't have a lot of help. They make tough decisions on their own.
timothy.gibbons@jacksonville. com, (904) 359-4103

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