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Defense Leaders Praise U.S. Service Members

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 1996 – U.S. defense leaders are impressed with the dedication and professionalism of American troops involved in Operation Joint Endeavor and say all the warring parties in Bosnia have given NATO forces a warm welcome.

Defense Secretary William J. Perry, Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, NATO commander Army Gen. George Joulwan and 1st Armored Division commander Army Maj. Gen. William Nash said they were all pleased with the progress of the NATO force and U.S. service members in particular during a news conference in Tuzla, Bosnia.

Perry said "true grit" is the best way to characterize the attitude of American service members in Bosnia. "My overwhelming reaction, as the secretary of defense, is great pride in the American military," he said.

Under the Dayton peace agreement, U.S. forces augmented by military forces from other countries will separate the warring factions and patrol a third of Bosnia. U.S. forces have already met with Turkish and Scandinavian troops that will come under the Army's 1st Armored Division. Perry said the multinational aspect of the force is coming along well.

Nash characterized U.S. service members' morale as excellent. "The No. 1 issue on morale is the security and force protection of the soldiers, and that is paramount to what we will do," Nash said. "We will have many activities for the soldiers as the theater matures."

Perry said Air Force engineers are working to improve living conditions for service members in Bosnia. A U.S. tent city is going up with heated tents. "I can tell you the soldiers that are out there in the mud ... were very pleased to see these new tents coming along," he said.

Perry said the history of U.S. ground involvement in Bosnia is going to be "dealing with one problem after another, as they come up." He pointed to the Sava River bridge and mines as two of them. He said the cooperation NATO forces are getting from the parties and the competence and dedication of the troops working the problems are key to overcoming them.

Shalikashvili and Joulwan said the logisticians have also done a superb job. "When you get the statistics of what [the logisticians] have done here, in the middle of winter, in a very difficult area of Europe, you have to be impressed," Joulwan said. He said millions of tons of supplies have arrived, and he singled out the performance of the Air Force's new C-17 airlifter for praise. The effort of the logisticians has put the operation, derailed by bad weather, back on schedule, Joulwan said.

Shalikashvili said from a logistics perspective "we're off to a very, very good start. And I feel very comfortable that we will be able to sustain this force for a long time."

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