• Franks recounts leading VII Corps in battle

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  • Harry Sarles | Army University Public Affairs
    Retired Gen. Frederick Franks, former commanding general of Training and Doctrine Command and commander of the U.S. VII Corps during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, shared his experiences commanding a large force in combat with Command and General Staff College students Feb. 7 in Eisenhower Auditorium at the Lewis and Clark Center.
    Franks said he admires and respects the current generation of Army officers for their selfless service in the conflicts they’ve been part of.
    “I call you the next greatest generation,” Franks said.
    “The very essence of our profession is earning and sustaining the trust of those we’ve been appointed to lead,” he said. “We owe it to our soldiers to fulfill their trust to have them ready for a broad variety and set of conditions. So I applaud our current chief of staff, Gen. (Mark A.) Milley, for his emphasis on large-scale combat operations.
    “Some enduring realities of war are still relevant today, I believe, even though you’re going to have to figure out a lot of it yourself,” Franks said.
    Franks then went into a discussion of leadership, command and some tactics in the context of Desert Storm. He emphasized the importance of battlefield circulation and face-to-face meetings with leaders at all levels in order to build shared understanding. He also made decisions early and explained his reasoning for giving Maj. Gen. Tom Rhame’s 1st Infantry Division the breach mission was because the division had recently conducted similar missions at the National Training Center. Making the decision early allows subordinate commanders the time they need to plan and prepare for mission execution, he said.
    Writing the commander’s intent is a commander’s responsibility, Franks said. He said he didn’t rely on staff to draft his intent.
    “It’s a commander’s duty, to be able to clearly, precisely and concisely, in a few sentences, express his or her will and vision for the unfolding of that operation.
    “You know you’re going to have to adjust off of the plan,” Franks said. “No plan ever predicts the future.”
    Planning creates shared understanding and mutual trust. This understanding then allows subordinates to make adjustments as occurrences happen and conditions change, and if the corps needs to create another branch or sequel to the plan they can do that as well, he said.
    “I always thought intel was more of a distribution issue than a supply issue,” Franks said. “That is, getting intel at the right place and the right time. Tactical intel is very perishable.”
    Page 2 of 2 - That intelligence was invaluable in Desert Storm as Franks made the decision to turn the corps’ attack 90 degrees in the famous “left hook” maneuver that allowed the divisions to be in the best position to destroy the Iraqi Republican Guard units in their sector.
    The night of Feb. 26, 1991, the corps had nine brigades on line attacking. Franks said historians at the Army War College said it was the largest tank battle in the history of the U.S. Army.
    “I heard some sounds that evening I thought was a thunderstorm that might threaten the aviation attack,” said Franks. “In fact, it was the crack of tank cannons, the thump-thump of Bradleys, the thunder of artillery and a sprinkling of MLRS — the entire corps in night attack.”
    According to Franks, the reasons for VII Corps’ success in Desert Storm were continuous training and rehearsal, relentless attack, massed direct and indirect fires, logistics and teamwork.
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