The Slovenia Times

Frank Gorenc, From Slovenian Immigrant to Four-Star General



Gorenc will arrive in Europe next week to take over the post of NATO commander of US Air Forces in Europe and Africa and also the helm of the joint competence centre in Germany's Uedem and put on the fourth star.

"I will actually put the rank on on 2 August when I take command of those units in a ceremony in the Rammstein airbase," said Gorenc, adding that he will arrive in Germany on 29 July with his wife.

Prior to the trip to Europe, the general will go to Dallas to take a flying checkout because he intends to fly an airplane regularly while he is at Rammstein. He has more than 4,100 flight hours in various combat aircraft.

His older brother Stanley, who served in the US Air Force for 32 years to retire as a two-star general, was the one who proposed to Frank to go to the US Air Force Academy, which was a "fantastic opportunity to get premium college education essentially for free".

Gorenc admitted that the love of flying was not the main motive to go to the academy in Colorado Springs, adding that it was really more of an economic thing and the opportunity to get a scholarship.

Gorenc immigrated to the US from Slovenia's Velike Lašče with his brother and parents in 1961 when he was four. They settled in Milwaukee, WI, as three of the father's brother had already immigrated there.

"My mum had a very driven desire for both my brother and I to take advantage of absolutely everything that had to do with the opportunities for education in the States. I was the kid that always went to summer school."

Gorenc does not think it was harder to succeed because he was an immigrant. "Slovenians are very hard working people. They understand where they want to go, and they have a work ethic built into them and I am a manifestation of that."

He agreed with the statement of the Slovenian Ambassador to the US, Roman Kirn, that the US feels responsible for every little piece of the world. "I do agree with the idea that a strong military enables many many things."

According to him, it is very fulfilling to be able to execute the international communities' desires and objectives across the world. "We like to do it inside coalitions, and that is why countries like Slovenia are very very important to us, because where we share our values we can work together."

Asked about his assessment of the Slovenian Armed Forces, Gorenc said that "all the reports that I get...the results are always positive. All the reviews have been positive up to this point."

Despite the austerity measures taken by the EU allies and even by the US, the general is convinced that the future of NATO is solid. "The NATO alliance has been a force for many many decades and I see its role as critical in the future."

"There will always be room for NATO in this world. It's a complex world, and the fact of the matter is that all of our militaries get smaller, we are going to have to rely on each other more. Nobody can do it alone," said Gorenc.

Commenting on the criticism the US get because of the use of unmanned aircraft, or drones, the general said that the expression is not correct, because "there is nothing unmanned" about remotely-piloted aircraft.

The interview also discussed US President Barack Obama's promise that the US army will not use its fighter jets to arrest whistleblower Edward Snowden, a former technical contractor for the United States National Security Agency (NSA).

Gorenc was asked about Snowden, who is in Europe and if he wanted to go to Latin America, he would have to cross Europe, where NATO air forces are under Gorenc's command.

"I will be perfectly honest. It's not something that I pay a lot of attention to except for all the conventional reporting. Obviously, that's a touchy situation right now, but I'm not an expert on that particular situation."

Gorenc is actually not the only US four-star general of Slovenian descent. The first one was Ronald Zlatoper, a Navy four-star admiral who served as Commander in Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet from 1994 to 1996.

Gorenc said that Slovenia was a very beautiful country, remembering his visit to relatives in Ljubljana, Brezovica and Velike Lašče. He once visited the country in an official capacity with the colleagues from the National War College class.

He noted that the Slovenian community in Milwaukee, WI, bought a piece of land on a lake and built cottages there. The lake has an island there, and someone built a replica of the church on the real lake Bled in Slovenia, he added.

Gorenc still understands Slovenian, but claims that it is one of those languages "where you have to use it. There are not lot of opportunities to use it, so his "skills have atrophied probably below kindergarten level".

Gorenc also met Pope Benedict XVI in Washington, describing it as one of the most exciting times of his life. "Not only that I get to meet the pope that day, but I also got to meet President Bush. It's not often that a two-star general gets to talk to the president."


More from Nekategorizirano