Correction to This Article
A Sept. 12 Style article about Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore incorrectly said that he is the commander of the Army's 1st Division. He is commanding general of the First U.S. Army.

The Category 5 General

Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore, surveying damage from a helicopter, is known as a no-nonsense guy.
Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore, surveying damage from a helicopter, is known as a no-nonsense guy. (By Robert A. Reeder -- The Washington Post)

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By Lynne Duke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 12, 2005

NEW ORLEANS

There's the swagger, and that ever-present stogie. There's the height and heft of his physique. And that barking voice with its font of perhaps impolitic obscenities ("That's b.s," he famously asserted on national TV), not to mention his penchant for not suffering fools, as is the prerogative of a three-star general.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore, 57, is the kind of commander you don't mess with, you don't cross, who punctuates pronouncements with barked questions like "Everybody got that?" And he's so steeped in military culture that he ends his televised sound bites as if ending an army radio transmission: "Over."

But it's for something far less idiosyncratic, far more visceral, that the troops on the battered streets of New Orleans hold him in high regard: He's a soldier's soldier, the man you want in the trenches with you, the kind of man who'll cover your back.

As he strides through a command center set up outside the shuttered and storm-battered Harrah's casino here on Saturday, that is why the troops want to shake his hand, look him in the eye and thank him even as he thanks them for their work.

He's wrapped his big mitts around the hand of Spec. Amy Firestone, a member of the quick reaction force from the 1345th Transportation Company of the Oklahoma National Guard. She served in the dreaded Superdome, packed with evacuees and mayhem.

"Did you see any murders?" the general asks her sympathetically.

"I seen some stabbings, sir," she confides, her voice dripping with regret over what she witnessed.

He pats her on the shoulder, saying, "Thank you for being a good soldier," and palms a 1st Army medallion into her hand as a keepsake as he moves on to the crowd of troops and cops who have gravitated to him.

Mayor Ray Nagin called Honore (pronounced ah-NOR-ay) "one John Wayne dude" when the general arrived here after the storm and started taking charge. It seemed the city had spiraled out of anyone's control when the 6-foot-2 general with the pencil mustache and caramel skin appeared from obscurity and threw his weight against the mayhem.

"He's got the power to make things happen," Firestone says. Nearby, Honore is pledging to a volunteer that the Army will find a way to retrieve 1,000 pounds of meat the man wants to donate for the troops. "It's awesome that he came here," Firestone says. "He's the first general I've seen come down here."

Every day, he's there -- or somewhere: New Orleans, the Mississippi-Alabama coast, or Camp Shelby up near Hattiesburg, Miss., where Joint Task Force Katrina is based. From there he commutes via Black Hawk helicopter after each day's Battle Update Briefing, where his pronouncements are punctuated with choice phrases like one that bursts from his lips during a brief tirade Saturday over another commander's statements about weapons status for Joint Task Force Katrina: "It ain't his [expletive] job! I mean, how the [expletive] did he do that?"


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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