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First Name: John

Last Name: Abizaid

Birthplace: Redwood, CA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Philip

Date of Birth: 01 April 1951

Rank: General

Years Served: 1973 - 2007
John Philip Abizaid

Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1973

•  Gulf War (1990 - 1991)
•  Kosovo War (1998 - 1999)
•  Afghanistan War (Operation Enduring Freedom) (2001 - present)
•  Iraq War (Operation Iraqi Freedom) (2003 - 2011)


John Philip Abizaid
General, U.S. Army

The Early Years

John Philip Abizaid, an American of Lebanese descent, was born to Ernest and Fae Abizaid on 1 April 1951 in Redwood, CA. His grandparents left southern Lebanon in the 1880s and moved to San Francisco. He grew up in California in a tight-knit, Roman Catholic family that, he says, argued and talked about relatives around the dinner table.

Abizaid had a very close relationship with his late father, Ernest, who raised him after his mother, Fae, died of cancer in 1962. A Navy machinist in the Pacific Ocean in World War II, Ernest became an inspiration for his son's career. Abizaid says that he and his father would sit around and talk about his experiences in the Navy. From the tales he heard, it sounded like serving his country would be very interesting; that it would allow opportunities for travel and adventure. He also thought it would give him a chance to become a leader.



• U.S. Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, New York (Class of 1973)

• Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced Courses at the U.S. Army Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia

• Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Virginia

• U.S. Army War College Senior Fellowship at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University


• Master of Arts Degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University *

• Olmsted Scholar at the University of Jordan in Amman, Jordan.

* Abizaid greatly impressed his teachers at Harvard University. Nadav Safran, Director of the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies, saved Abizaid's 100-page paper on Defense Policy for Saudi Arabia; the only paper of a master's student he has kept. He said, "It was absolutely the best seminar paper I ever got in my 30-plus years at Harvard."

Military Career

Abizaid was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Infantry upon graduation from the U.S. Military Academy in the Class of June 1973. His military service began with the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC, where he served as a rifle and scout platoon leader. He commanded companies in the 2nd and 1st Ranger Battalions, leading a Ranger Rifle Company during the invasion of Grenada. In 1983, he jumped from an MC-130 onto a landing strip in Grenada and ordered one of his Rangers to drive a bulldozer like a tank toward Cuban troops as he advanced behind it. [This action was highlighted in the 1986 Clint Eastwood film, Heartbreak Ridge. It is unknown how Abizaid feels about the Marines getting credit for his ingenuity in the movie.]

Abizaid commanded the 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Regiment Combat Team in Vicenza, Italy, during the Persian Gulf War and deployed with the battalion in Northern Iraq to provide a safe haven for the Kurds.

His brigade command was the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. He served as the Assistant Division Commander, 1st Armored Division, in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Following that tour, he served as the 66th Commandant at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. During his tenure as Commandant he reined in hazing rituals and revamped the curriculum. Later, he took command of the 1st Infantry Division, the "Big Red One," in Würzburg, Germany, from David L. Grange, which provided the first U.S. ground forces into Kosovo. He served as the Deputy Commander (Forward), Combined Forces Command, US Central Command during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Staff assignments include a tour with the United Nations as Operations Officer (G-3) for Observer Group Lebanon and a tour in the Office of the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. European staff tours include assignments in both the Southern European Task Force and Headquarters, U.S. Army Europe. Abizaid also served as Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Director of Strategic Plans and Policy (J-5) on the Joint Staff and Director of the Joint Staff.

Following the 2003 Iraq War and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Abizaid succeeded General Tommy Franks as Commander, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), on 7 July 2003. He was promoted to the rank of four-star General the same week. CENTCOM oversees American military operations in a 27-country region, from the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, to South and Central Asia, covering much of the Middle East. CENTCOM oversees 250,000 US troops.

On 20 December 2006, it was announced that General Abizaid would step down from his position and retire in March 2007. He had planned to retire earlier, but stayed at the urging of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. On 16 March 2007, Abizaid transferred command to Admiral William J. Fallon after having served longer as CENTCOM Commander than any of his predecessors.

General Abizaid retired from the U.S. Army on 1 May 2007 after 34 years of service.

Medals and Awards

Defense Distinguished Service Medal with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters (3 Awards)
Distinguished Service Medal
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit with Silver Oak Leaf Cluster (6 Awards)
Bronze Star Medal
Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Meritorious Service Medal
Army Commendation Medal with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters (3 Awards)
Army Achievement Medal
Joint Meritorious Unit Award
Valorous Unit Award
Army Superior Unit Award
National Defense Service Medal with 1 Bronze Service Star
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal with Arrowhead Device and Bronze Service Star
Southwest Asia Service Medal with Bronze Service Star
Kosovo Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star
Armed Forces Service Medal
Humanitarian Service Medal
Army Service Medal
Army Overseas Service Medal
UNTSO Medal with Bronze Service Star
NATO SFOR Medal with Bronze Service Star
Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait)
Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia
Bundeswehr Cross of Honour in Gold


Combat Infantryman Badge
Combat Parachutist Badge with 1 Star (Indicates one combat jump)
German Airborne (Jump) Wings (Earned September 1977 after exercise Reforger 77.)

Seals / ID

Joint Chiefs of Staff Seal
General Staff ID

Tabs / Insignia

U.S. Army Ranger
75 Ranger Regiment Shoulder Sleeve Insignia

In Retirement

Since his retirement, General Abizaid serves as an independent consultant on international and strategic issues.

In 2007, Abizaid joined the board of directors of United Services Automobile Association (USAA), a Fortune 500 financial services company. He serves as Vice Chair, Marketing and Programs Committee.

Effective 1 June 2007, Abizaid was named the first Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His focus is on national security and foreign policy.

In December 2007, he assumed the Distinguished Chair of West Point's Combating Terrorism Center.

During 2008, Abizaid was appointed to the board of directors of RPM International Inc. and Defense Venture Group.

He was also selected as a Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College in 2008.


Abizaid is married and has three children. He learned Arabic while in the military.

His interests include Major League Baseball (San Francisco Giants) and participating in personal sports, including mountain biking.

Selected Viewpoints on Key Subjects

2006-2007 Comments on Iraq

Abizaid, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on 3 August 2006, seemed to have become more pessimistic about the situation on the ground in Iraq. He said: "I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it, in Baghdad in particular, and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war." This was widely regarded as a significant change in his previous estimation of the threat of civil war in Iraq. However, he also testified that "I'm optimistic that that slide [toward civil war] can be prevented."

Bob Woodward on Abizaid and Murtha (Redeployment of troops from Iraq)

In State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III (as excerpted in Newsweek magazine), journalist Bob Woodward of the Washington Post wrote that on 16 March 2006 Abizaid was in Washington to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He painted a careful but upbeat picture of the situation in Iraq." Subsequently "he went over to see Congressman John Murtha (D-Pa), the 73-year old former Marine who had introduced a resolution the previous November calling for the redeployment of troops from Iraq as soon as practicable." Abizaid said he wanted to speak frankly, and "according to Murtha, Abizaid raised his hand for emphasis and held his thumb and forefinger a quarter of an inch from each other and said, "We're that far apart."

On 1 October 2006, an interview of Woodward by CBS reporter Mike Wallace was broadcast on the television show 60 Minutes. The interview was about Woodward's book State of Denial and Wallace mentioned the Murtha-Abizaid conversation. Wallace asked Woodward to confirm that Murtha had told him of this tale of meeting with Abizaid; Woodward nodded his head in assent and said yes.

On Iran's Nuclear Program

In remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank, on 17 September 2007 he reportedly stated "We need to press the international community as hard as we possibly can, and the Iranians, to cease and desist on the development of a nuclear weapon and we should not preclude any option that we may have to deal with it." He further stated "I believe that we have the power to deter Iran, should it become nuclear."

He continued "There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran," Abizaid said "Let's face it, we lived with a nuclear Soviet Union, we've lived with a nuclear China, and we're living with (other) nuclear powers as well."

Honoree ID: 181   Created by: MHOH




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