Adm. William J. Fallon: An Experienced Naval Officer, And A Diplomat

Adm. William J. Fallon: An Experienced Naval Officer, And A Diplomat
January 8th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Adm. William J. Fallon: An Experienced Naval Officer, And A Diplomat

Adm. William J. Fallon: An Experienced Naval Officer, And A Diplomat
New York Times
January 8, 2007
Pg. 8
Man In The News

By Thom Shanker
WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 — The Bush administration’s selection of a career naval aviator to be the top commander of American military forces across a region where they are engaged in two ground wars is, at first glance, odd.
A range of military officers at the Pentagon noted that if Adm. William J. Fallon was confirmed by the Senate to the Central Command position, he would be not only the first naval officer to command the region, but also a four-star officer moving between regional combatant commands. Often, such posts are given as promotions to three-star officers.
Senior Pentagon civilians and military officers said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’s recommendation of Admiral Fallon, currently in command of all American forces in the Pacific, reflected a wish for seasoned eyes on Afghanistan and Iraq as well as a new focus on regional initiatives to reassure allies and deter adversaries, in particular Iran.
“Because of the importance of this job today, and what we’re embroiled in over in that area of operations, this is no time for a learning curve,” said Adm. Robert J. Natter, who worked extensively with Admiral Fallon before retiring as commander of the Atlantic Fleet.
“He has broad experience, both diplomatic, with the Japanese, Chinese and South Koreans, and also clearly in the traditional military fields,” Admiral Natter said.
The Middle East has a vast land area, to be sure, but also has important waterways that carry world oil supplies and, it is feared, nuclear materials and terrorists.
Whether the mission is interdicting contraband, tracking suspected leaders of Al Qaeda or deterring Iran, many military contingencies in the region rely on warships and warplanes, and not boots on the ground.
Admiral Fallon, who began his military career with a commission through the Navy’s Reserve Officer Training Program, as opposed to the more prestigious Naval Academy, has a quarter-century’s experience in combat aircraft and extensive time at the negotiating table.
The admiral can be grizzly and tough, as befits a product of New Jersey. But he has consistently taken on assignments where diplomatic skills were as important as the military ones. He surprised some of his colleagues when, in early 2001, he volunteered for the task of delivering an apology to Japanese officials and families of those killed in the accidental sinking of a fishery school ship by an American submarine, the Greeneville, off the coast of Hawaii.
The final military inquiry had not been completed, and some at the Pentagon argued that an official apology was premature. But the extraordinary visit to Tokyo by Admiral Fallon, then serving as the vice chief of naval operations, the service’s No. 2 job, was credited with soothing the feelings of an important ally, and of its people.
Another side of Admiral Fallon was on display last month when, as the senior American military officer in the Pacific, he took the unusual and punitive move of canceling a large annual field exercise with the Philippines over a local judge’s failure to honor the bilateral treaty governing protections for American military personnel. At the time, Admiral Fallon said he was not sitting in judgment of the guilt or innocence of a marine convicted of rape, but was protecting his forces by demanding that the Philippines adhere to legal obligations.
Admiral Fallon can be expected to pay great attention to the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, but to leave day-to-day operations to the senior commanders on the ground in Baghdad and Kabul, similar to his current relationship as Pacific regional commander to the four-star Army officer in charge of forces just in South Korea.
William Joseph Fallon was born Dec. 30, 1944, in East Orange, N.J., and raised in Merchantville. He graduated from Villanova University in 1967, and later graduated from the Naval War College and the National War College, and earned a master’s degree in international studies from Old Dominion University.
He flew combat missions in the Vietnam War, commanded a carrier air wing in the Persian Gulf war in 1991, and four years later led the naval battle group supporting NATO operations in Bosnia. His senior positions before the Pacific assignment included commander of the Fleet Forces Command and of the Atlantic Fleet.
“This selection sends a clear signal that the administration wants the combatant commander to operate at the ‘30,000 foot’ level, at the geopolitical and geostrategic level, and to foster our relations in the region as opposed to being focused solely on this conflict or that conflict,” said Stephen R. Pietropaoli, a retired rear admiral who now serves as executive director of the Navy League.
“Admiral Fallon will have very experienced commanders in charge of operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Horn of Africa,” Admiral Pietropaoli added. “But the Central Command commander needs to be above that, looking at how to enhance America’s influence throughout his area of responsibility and how to truly work hand in glove with the Department of State to enhance America’s image and influence and prestige in that part of the world.”

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