Army Peacekeepers Cheer Rumsfeld, Present Jacket
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo, June 6, 2001 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld received an Army physical training jacket and thunderous cheers June 5 from hundreds of soldiers on peacekeeping duty here.
Rumsfeld praised Bondsteel soldiers, calling their service "a noble calling" that contributes to peace and stability throughout an uncertain world. He heard hearty applause from his audience after his remarks, but then received resounding cheers after donning a new gray and black Army physical training jacket presented by the troops.
Staff Sgt. Robert Grahm (right) describes his mountain top observation post near the town of Mijak, Kosovo, to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (center) and Lt. Col. Chris Reddish. The secretary visited the site June 5, 2001, for a firsthand look at U.S. operations in Kosovo. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Flying to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia from Ukraine, Rumsfeld first met Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski at Skopje International Airport, near Camp Able Sentry. From there, he boarded an Army Black Hawk helicopter to fly to 101st Airborne Division soldiers pulling observation post duty near Mijak, Kosovo.
Staff Sgt. Robert Grahm, a 29-year-old from Blaine, Tenn., was one of the soldiers who briefed Rumsfeld at the observation post. "We're monitoring ethnic armed Albanian group activity, keeping them from moving supplies and weapons either south into Macedonia or north into Kosovo," Grahm said to the visiting secretary and news reporters.
The squad leader, from Company C, 502nd Infantry Regiment, was three days into an eight-day watch consisting of eight hours on and eight off. His unit, he said, will serve six months in Kosovo, and should return to Fort Campbell, Ky., in December.
Scanning the mountainous terrain, platoon leader 1st Lt. Charles Canon, 25, from Geneva, Fla., said he considers Kosovo a beautiful place to serve and good training for infantry soldiers.
"If you're in the Army, you've got to come over here, because this place is absolutely gorgeous. And, since we're on the mountain, we're into tactical kinds of things like reconnaissance," Canon said, pointing to his M-16 rifle- mounted night scope.
Rumsfeld and party flew on to Camp Bondsteel. He stopped by "to say hello, to say thank you, and to say we're proud of you," Rumsfeld told the soldiers. "We're also grateful to the families who support you, and through their support of you, help support our country."
U.S. service members who "answer the call to duty allow our country to contribute to peace and stability in this still dangerous and untidy world of ours," he added.
It has been relatively quiet in Kosovo lately, in contrast to early March when 82nd Airborne Division soldiers wounded two Albanian extremists while searching for contraband weapons near Mijak, said Army Brig. Gen. William David, commander of Task Force Falcon. At that time, he said, U.S. peacekeepers in Kosovo were routinely discovering hundreds of contraband rifles, mortars and other weapons earmarked for extremists.
Peacekeepers now are seeing single vehicles, not large supply columns, large weapon caches or heavy-caliber weapons, said David, who arrived May 18 to take command of the task force. He noted the elimination May 31 of a buffer zone between Kosovo and Macedonia that extremists had used to move troops and supplies.
Kosovo duty isn't just for active duty soldiers. Army Reserve public affairs specialist Sgt. Annie Burrows is serving a six-month tour at Bondsteel with her unit, the 358th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment of Salt Lake City.
"We produce the 'Falcon Flier,' a biweekly publication and also conduct media escorts," Burrows said. She said she joined the Reserve to travel to different places.
"I was very excited to be able to come here and participate in a peacekeeping mission like this," she said. "This has been a really great experience to be able to work with people and to know that by being here, we're helping provide a safer place for all the people in Kosovo."