U.S. General Leading Libya Effort 'Follows Trouble' Gen. Carter Ham is leading the military operations just 10 days after he took over U.S. Africa Command. He is used to tough assignments: Prior to Libya, he assessed the impact of gays and lesbians serving openly in the military; before that, he investigated the deadly shootings at Fort Hood, Texas.
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U.S. General Leading Libya Effort 'Follows Trouble'

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U.S. General Leading Libya Effort 'Follows Trouble'

U.S. General Leading Libya Effort 'Follows Trouble'

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

NPR's Tom Bowman reports on a general who is accustomed to tough assignments.

TOM BOWMAN: Now he's got Libya.

JOHN SATTLER: I don't think trouble follows him. I think he follows trouble.

BOWMAN: That's retired Lieutenant General John Sattler. He served with General Ham in Iraq and later at the Pentagon. He's not surprised officials hand him these assignments.

SATTLER: I think when tough things come up, the folks who know him put him in there to go ahead and bring him to, you know, to some positive conclusion.

BOWMAN: Retired Army Major General Bob Scales says, well, it's true.

BOB SCALES: He's highly respected by soldiers simply because of his personality. He's probably one of the most un- general-like generals that we have at the four-star level in the Army today.

BOWMAN: Ham got his first combat command in 2004. He spent a year in Northern Iraq. During that tour, just before Christmas, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive inside a mess tent, killing 22, including 18 Americans. Ham arrived on the scene minutes after the blast. A couple of days later, he described what happened.

CARTER HAM: What we think is likely, but certainly not certain, is that an individual in an Iraqi military uniform, possibly with a vest-worn explosive device, was inside the facility and detonated the facility, causing this tragedy.

BOWMAN: Ham called it the worst day of his life. A few months later he returned home from Iraq. But he couldn't forget that day. He couldn't sleep. Loud noises startled him. He had mood swings. He talked about his experience on CNN a few years later.

HAM: I was withdrawn. I wanted to still be there. I felt like - that what I was doing was not important because - because I had soldiers who were killed. It's not a matter of letting go. I don't want to let go.

BOWMAN: Again, his friend General Sattler.

SATTLER: They now have the courage to follow his example because he took the time to lay that example out there.

BOWMAN: These days, General Ham oversees the Libyan campaign from his headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. He has to translate political goals into practical military action. It's complicated. He says U.S. and coalition pilots have to protect civilians, but not become the Air Force for Libyan rebels.

HAM: These are situations that brief much better at a headquarters than they do in a cockpit of an aircraft.

BOWMAN: Tom Bowman, NPR News, Washington.

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