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Release No: 417-96
July 08, 1996

Remarks by Secretary of Defense to Task Force Eagle, Camp Demi in Bosnia

Remarks by

Secretary of Defense William J. Perry

to Task Force Eagle,

Camp Demi, Bosnia-Herzegovina

July 4, 1996

As General Nash has said, this has been my fourth visit to Task Force Eagle. The first visit you were focused on training. You were still in Germany, some of you at Bad Kreuznach, some of you at Baumholder. All of you were cycling through Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels.

I went out to Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels to see how the training was going. It was tough. It was really tough. I asked General Joulwan why he made its so tough and he said, "We want to make the scrimmage tougher than the game." And that training, that preparation, really paid off after you got here.

I came back next time, January 2nd and 3rd. Some of you were still coming into Bosnia then. It was the day after we opened up the Sava River bridge. And so the tanks and the Bradleys were rolling across this pontoon bridge and General Nash and I, General Joulwan and General Shalikashvili decided to walk into Bosnia. So we got on the bridge and walked over. Halfway across, we came across some of the combat engineers who had built the bridge. One of them was Sergeant First Class Kidwell. He stepped forward and said his enlistment was up. He wanted to re- enlist. And so we swore him in for another four years in the Army right out there in the middle of the Sava River bridge. I can tell you I have never, never been prouder of the Army than that day, standing out there in the cold, and the mud, and the sleet, and swearing in Sergeant First Class Kidwell for another four years in the Army.

Back to the base camp. It was not much of a camp then. What I saw was mostly mud and snow. We were just starting to build the tents. The Air Force built the tents. The Air Force did a helluva job getting those tents together. And you were all doing a great job, but the force wasn't fully deployed yet, and certainly the base camp, the facilities were not set up. So I came back again in April, wanting to see what kind of improvements had been made. By that time the tents were up, [with] ... decent living quarters, rec facilities, PT facilities, [and] good chow. I felt good about that; but felt even better about the way you were doing the mission.

On this visit, you are now just past the halfway point. All of the tasks which are specifically called out for in the Dayton Agreement, all the military tasks have been done. You separated the forces, you were overseeing the exchange of territory. You supervised the demobilization of the armies of the former warring fractions. Heavy weapons [are] back in barracks and cantonments now. You have done a helluva job.

Everybody had forecast that you wouldn't able to do this. That when you came into Bosnia, you'd meet armed resistance. Well, we came in heavy, we came well-trained, well-disciplined. We came in with robust rules of engagement; and there wasn't anybody wanting to mess with the First Armored Division.

We also came in with 32 countries. Nobody thought that many countries could work together cooperatively in an operation like this. I just came a few hours ago from the Russian Brigade. They are working hand in glove with this brigade and with Colonel Fontenot's brigade. I talked with them. I talked with Colonel Fontenot and they are working together like two brigades in the American Army.

So this has been a spectacular success story. And it has been so because your confidence, your professionalism, your training, [and] your leadership. You can all be very damn proud of that.

That's the good news. The bad news is, we still have a job ahead of us. This summer, the time between now and the elections, life here will be tougher than the last couple of months. I hope not. But it could be. The factors causing turbulence in the country, the resettling of refugees, the runup to the election, the activities of the War Crime Tribunal, all of those things are going to cause turmoil. And therefore it is going to make maintaining security tougher.

I am confident you are up to that. But you ought to go in to it understanding it must be tougher the next couple of months. So I have two big messages for you in the months ahead. The first is, do not be complacent; and second, let's take care of each other. Three days ago I was in Dhahran visiting the leadership and the survivors of the bombing at the airmen's residence there. Sad news in many respects -- a tragedy without doubt. But I want to report to you that the air operation, the day I was there, was back up and operating at full scale. We are not going to be intimidated anywhere we go and we are not going to be driven out of any country where our security tells us we ought to be.

I talked at the clinic, the doctors, the medics, and the nurses who had treated more than 200 airmen who came in there for treatment after that bombing. They said the buddy system works. Over 200 airmen came in there; not one of them came in by himself. Everyone of them had a buddy who took responsibility for him. Took him in, made sure he got to the medics. Helped them and helped with bandages on the way in. Many lives were saved because of that. So take care of yourselves.

The head of the clinic introduced me to one of the doctors, who still had some wounds on his face. He had a bad wound in his chest where he had been hit by flying glass. He said he saw that doctor bandaging a patient at the same time one of the medics was bandaging him.

Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other.

When I talked with you in Germany, somebody asked me how long we were going to be in Bosnia. I said a year. If you ask me that question today, I'll give you the same answer: You will be here about a year. Our plan is to start the draw-down after the elections. I don't know how rapid the draw-down will be. I will look to General Nash, Admiral Smith to determine how rapid [they] can make it. It is going to be determined by the facts on the ground in September and October. The ground rule is that on December 20, they still want to have a capable force here -- a force that can protect itself. So how many people that is going to involve depends on what it takes to do that mission.

After December 20, there will be a rapid draw-down then, but still one consistent with force protection. Individual combat soldiers here, I don't think any of you will be here more than a year. I think you can put that in the bank.

I have also been asked a different but related question: What is NATO going to be doing in Bosnia next year? We still have a mission. I don't have an answer to that question yet. The NATO ministers are going to meet late in September, to look at what the situation is at that time and make that decision.

But if there is a mission here -- about which no decisions make yet -- if there is a mission, you will not be part of it. We will be rotating this unit out. We are hoping and we are expecting that there will not have to be a mission here next year; and we are confident that the mission that we came in here to do, the IFOR mission that was set out in the Dayton Agreement, that will be done by the end of the year. You have done a remarkable job on that. Everything has been done according to schedule.

The final message I'd like to leave with you is that all [of] you can be very, very proud of what you have done here. You are making history. It's a history that you'll be proud of. It's a history you'll be telling your children and your grandchildren about. And I can tell you as your Secretary of Defense, I'm sure as hell am proud of you.

Thank you very much.

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