A New Wave Of Commanders

The war against terrorism has no front line and will probably never lead to a decisive battle like the climactic last day of Operation Desert Storm, when Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf's tanks routed the Iraqis in Kuwait. But it will test the mettle of America's military leaders just as thoroughly--and in time, may produce new heroes like Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell. The five commanders profiled here may be in their ranks.

GEN. RICHARD MYERS

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs

Back in August, when Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers was to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the biggest military issue facing the Bush administration was space-based missile defense--which just happens to be Myers's area of expertise. Then came Sept. 11 and the war against terrorism, forcing the Pentagon into a conflict much more like the French and Indian Wars than Star Wars. Is Myers up to the task? The answer, by most accounts, is emphatically "yes." A quick study who gets high marks for his political savvy, Myers, 59, has broad experience at the top echelon of America's military establishment--and his main role now is to represent the four military services to the president, not to direct troops in combat. "You don't get that far in the modern military without a good understanding of how the rest of the system works," one defense expert says. His real strength, according to those who know him well, may be his straightforward temperament and down-to-earth personality. "He doesn't work the Dick Myers problem--he works the country's problem [and] the president's problem," says Air Force Gen. Michael Ryan, a close friend. Myers himself said his biggest worry will be anticipating the next form of surprise attack--but as the events of the past six weeks demonstrate, he is hardly alone in that.

GEN. TOMMY FRANKS

Central Command

From his heavily guarded headquarters at McDill Air Force Base, Fla., Gen. Tommy R. Franks has been drawing up plans for the battle against Osama bin Laden and his Qaeda network--plans that, with the recent insertion of Special Forces combat teams into Afghanistan, are now becoming very real. Franks, 56, is a soldier's soldier with a taste for salty language and deadpan wit. (Recent sample: "I've been thinking about slitting my wrists," he told his staff. "Or going bowling.") A college dropout in 1967, Franks got his commission at Officer Candidate School and shipped out for Vietnam as a young artillery lieutenant. He has risen steadily (and finished his college degree) in the years since, serving with the First Cavalry Division during Desert Storm and taking over Central Command only months before the attack on the USS Cole. Central Command encompasses Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf states, several former Soviet republics and parts of Africa: it is the new flash point of world politics. Franks's reaction to Sept. 11 was typically to the point: the terrorists, he growled, had "grossly miscalculated" the odds of going to war with the United States.

GEN. WAYNE DOWNING

Presidential Adviser

Aggressive, outspoken and clearly unafraid of stepping on bureaucratic toes, Gen. Wayne Downing is now George Bush's principal adviser on terrorism. Downing, 61, retired from the Army in 1996 after a long military career that began at West Point and ended with the top job at the Joint Special Operations Command, where he led all U.S. commando forces. He now holds two titles: deputy national-security adviser under Condoleezza Rice, and national counterterrorism director under Tom Ridge. That seems to give Downing an important role in domestic counterterrorism operations as well as the terrorism war overseas. Last week a White House official said that Downing's job hasn't been defined--but those who know him think he'll take as much turf as possible. "The world is not the same," he told NEWSWEEK. "Our propensity for risk has changed dramatically."

JIMMY GURULE

The Money Tracer

Jimmy Gurule knows something about foreign manhunts. As a young federal prosecutor in Los Angeles in the late 1980s, the hard-charging Gurule oversaw the case that led to the conviction of the Mexican nationals who brutally murdered federal drug agent Enrique (Kiki) Camarena. But now Gurule is supervising an even bigger chase--finding the overseas sources of money that financed the Sept. 11 terrorist assault. Gurule, 49, became the Treasury Department's under secretary for enforcement in August. That puts him in charge of the U.S. Customs Service, the Secret Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. It also made Gurule, a former Notre Dame law-school professor, the highest-ranking Latino law-enforcement official in the country. Gurule threw together a special team of financial analysts and investigators who began tapping into thousands of computer databases to track the hijackers' money. At the same time Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control--which also reports to Gurule--dramatically expanded its efforts to block the assets of foreign terrorist groups in general. The search is daunting and Gurule has expressed his annoyance about the lack of intelligence sharing among U.S. agencies in the past. Still, he says, "We're going to follow the money trail wherever it leads."

GEN. CHARLES F. WALD

The Air Commander

Chuck Wald was a college football player who, on being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 1969, chose the Air Force over the NFL. That decision quickly led Wald, who got his lieutenant's commission through the ROTC program at North Dakota State University, to dangerous duty flying light planes as a forward air controller over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. But it also led to a successful career in F-15s, the kind of red-hot combat aircraft every military pilot dreams of flying. "He has always been where the action is," a former Defense official says. Wald got into F-15s in the late '70s, and in 1995 took command of the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, Italy--just in time to fly combat missions over Bosnia. He made the generals' list in 1996 and got his fourth star in January 2000, when he took command of all air operations for the U.S. Central Command. In that role, he directs 26,000 men and 350 aircraft in what is likely to be a tough campaign in an unforgiving place--Afghanistan.