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
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
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
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
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
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.