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Where are they now? ..... General Walter Boomer

Nine years after Walter Boomer led Camp Pendleton Marines into battle in Kuwait, he rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange to mark the start of his company's stock listing. That was in April 2000. Clearly, retirement has not been idle for Boomer, 63, who left the Corps as a four-star general in 1994 after a 34-year career. He charged into the business world. Starting off as a senior executive at one energy company, then another, he became chief executive officer of Rogers Corp. in 1997. The

Connecticut-based firm, with annual sales of $216 million, makes chemical compounds used by cell phone and computer companies.

Despite arriving with a short corporate resume, and no high-tech pedigree, Boomer discovered that shepherding Rogers' 770 employees isn't so different from commanding Marines. "It was the kind of a challenge in terms of leading people that I had been faced with before," he said. "One of the things that I think has been helpful to me is I've never tried to fool anybody with what I don't know, because there's a lot of it."

With quarterly earnings to worry about, and offices in five foreign countries, Boomer has had little time to think about the current war in Afghanistan. "I've been so absorbed in what I'm doing. I think I almost look upon (the war) now as a citizen who doesn't have the experience that I've had as strange as that may seem," Boomer said in an interview from his office in Rogers, Conn.

Strange, because Boomer was intimately involved in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, when he led two divisions of Marines and an Army brigade into combat against Saddam Hussein's Iraqi fighters. His forces blasted holes in Iraqi defense lines and charged through. The Marines eventually headed toward Kuwait City, chasing down remnants of Iraq's broken army. That command made Boomer a star. The national media profiled him. He was reportedly a contender for commandant, the top Marine job. After that war, he left a short stint as Camp Pendleton base commander to head the Marines' think tank on strategy in Quantico, Va., anassistant commandant before retiring. His career also included service in Vietnam.

Boomer now sidesteps the limelight, although television news shows have come calling recently. And he has shot down requests to become a military commentator. "What I really don't have time to do is to analyze or second-guess very much," he said. "My day is full." Even so, one personality bridging the Persian Gulf War era and today's conflict against the al-Qaeda terrorist network can be haunting.

Saddam Hussein.

President Bush has talked of deposing the Iraqi president as a pre-emptive strike against further trouble from that nation. Boomer, who called the Iraqi ruler an "evil, cruel person" who "needs to be deposed," said hindsight makes him wish the U.S. forces had taken three more days on the Kuwaiti battlefield. If they had, Saddam Hussein might not still be in command, he said. "An extra three days would have probably finished off his armed forces," Boomer said. "Then the situation might have turned out to be dramatically different. ... He would not have had the support to sustain himself, perhaps."

Still, Boomer stressed caution now.

"You need to think through what end state you want, what kind of government would you want in Iraq," Boomer said. "And, would you be able to achieve that simply by getting rid of Saddam Hussein?"


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