Chairman Says Service Members Aware of Need for Bosnia Force
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 1995 The chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff said U.S. service members are well aware of the
stakes at risk in Bosnia and are prepared for the duty.
Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili said everyone in the U.S.
military knows a stable Europe is essential to U.S. national
interests and war in the former Yugoslavia threatens that
stability. "For the United States, having brokered the peace
[among Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia], to back away would be
inconceivable," Shalikashvili said during an interview.
The average service member also understands the need for
American leadership, he said. "Every service member will
understand for the United States at this time to back away would
do tremendous damage to America's ability to remain the
influential power around the world," he said.
The chairman said he and the Clinton administration have
been up front about the possibility of casualties in the Bosnian
peace operation, Joint Endeavor. He said Americans have always
been reluctant to put troops in operations. "Short of Pearl
Harbor, it would have been difficult to get the United States
involved in World War II," he said. U.S. operations in Haiti
received low support to start, but gained acceptance once it
became apparent the operation was successful, he said.
"In Bosnia, we must continue to work to persuade the public
that this is the right course," Shalikashvili said. "We need to
be up front with our men and women in uniform and the public that
this is not a mission without risk and that casualties are
At this time, Shalikashvili said he foresees more non
combatrelated casualties and deaths than combat casualties. He
said Bosnia will not be a replay of Somalia. "People thought we
went into Somalia just to feed the hungry and then started seeing
pictures of American dead, it was really unexpected," he said. "I
believe there is an issue of backlash when casualties occur. But
this is not Somalia where the public felt they were mislead."
Shalikashvili said service members going to Bosnia will go
for one year, with some exceptions. "If you are stationed in
Europe and your normal [date of estimated return from overseas
service] comes after the first 90 days of the operation, then you
will rotate home and a replacement will come." he said. "There
are also [reserve component members] who will go for 270 or less
days. There are also some service members in specialties that
will go in, do their jobs and rotate out, but the services have
agreed the bulk of the service members will go in for the
The chairman said the U.S. European Command officials are
already working on policies governing home leave and R&R.
"Everyone is already working very hard to ensure all the morale
services will be there," he said. Command officials are working
on communication links back to home stations or to the United
States. They are also looking at intheater rest and recuperation
sites for troops stationed in the former Yugoslavia.
Shalikashvili said it is much too early to get into particulars.
He said he is satisfied with the rules of engagement. He
said the rules allow NATO service members to protect themselves
against hostile acts or hostile intents. "There are circumstances
where you should not ask a soldier to wait until a hostile act is
committed before replying," Shalikashvili said. The rules also
allow the NATO force to use force, including deadly force, to
accomplish their missions. "At each level [of command] there are
rules to get the job done."
Working within the 1st Armored Division the big muscle
for the American sector will be the Nordic Brigade, a Turkish
battalion combat team and a Russian brigade. The Russian brigade
will take tactical orders from the U.S. division commander.
Operational orders will come from a Russian deputy to U.S.
commander, Gen. George Joulwan. "That way the Russians can say we
work for Joulwan, not for NATO," Shalikashvili said. "When you
think about it, who would have thought six months ago you would
have a Russian brigade under the tactical control of an American
division commander to do a job in Bosnia?"
Shalikashvili said the situation on the ground in the
American sector is "cold" but the reception has been warm. "The
Nordic battalion has been there for some time," he said. "They've
helped us tremendously. They have shared intelligence with us,
started to demine the airfields and acted as guides and hosts."
The chairman is worried about antiAmerican riots and
demonstrations around Sarajevo and said he will watch the
situation closely. As for criticism that U.S. soldiers can't
handle the environment, Shalikashvili said, "American soldiers
are not fair weather soldiers. They do quite well in cold and
heat. We've operated all over the world, probably more so than
any other soldiers. It's probably no colder in Tuzla
[headquarters for the U.S. effort] than in Baumholder [the main
base for the 1st Armored Division]."