Transcript : DoD News Briefing : Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon ASD(PA)
Tuesday, April 30, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.
Mr. Bacon: Let me start with a couple of announcements. Secretary Perryand the German Minister of Defense Volker Ruehe will visit Holloman Air ForceBase in New Mexico tomorrow to participate in the ceremony to activate theGerman Air Force Tactical Training Command down there. There will be 12Tornado aircraft and approximately 300 German military and civilian personnelassigned to Holloman as part of a weapons instructor and flight trainingprogram. This was set up under a 1994 Memorandum of Understanding between theU.S. and Germany.
In other words, pilots from the German Air Force will be training in NewMexico. While they're down there, there will be a press conference tomorrow at12:40 [p.m.] Mountain Daylight Time. If you want more information, you cancheck with the people out at Holloman, or we can get you information here.
Now, this is very exciting. The American Forces Press Service, which writesarticles for base newspapers around the world, is now available on theINTERNET. You can get it under DefenseLINK or you can go in at.afps to get these articles and they're available foranybody who wants them.
Finally, I'd like to bring you up to date on recent events in Liberia. Aboutthree hours ago, there was an exchange of fire between one of the factions inLiberia and the United States Marines, who were guarding the embassy compound.This took place in the context of sporadic fighting around the main embassycompound and the Greystone compound where there is still about 10,000Liberians. Unidentified fighters fired at the embassy compound. The Marinesreturned fire. We believe that two of the attackers were killed and one waswounded. One Marine was grazed in the incident, but did not require medicalattention.
I'd like to use this opportunity to point out that the way to end theseproblems is to reach a peace agreement between the factions in Monrovia.Assistant Secretary of State George Moose is there now trying to negotiate apeace agreement. He's been earlier in Europe, in Geneva, working with a newContact Group to try to achieve a peace agreement in Liberia.
So, the first lesson is that the factions should stop fighting and agree topeace. But the second is that the Marines take their security obligationsseriously and will protect the embassy as appropriate.
With that, I'm ready to take your questions. Charlie?
Q: How many Marines? Can you give us a ballpark on how many, in fact, arethere?
A: There's a reinforced rifle company in Monrovia that's guarding the embassycompound now. A normal rifle company is 150 people. There are about 250Marines. I'm sorry, 276 Marines, I've been told, on the ground in Monrovia --that's the latest in from the Marine Corps. The total MEU -- the 22nd MarineExpeditionary Unit -- is offshore. The total, including the number on theground in Monrovia is 2,939 -- in the 22nd MEU. The total number of Americanmilitary personnel assigned to Liberia, now, is 3,444. The difference of 505between the total and the number in the MEU is mainly Air Force people who arein the process of breaking down their operation and moving out.
Q: Is this the first exchange of fire and the first wounding on either sidethat you know of?
A: This is the first... of course, there's been fairly intense fighting goingon for the last several days between the factions. But this is the firstexchange of fire involving Marines.
Q: Does this involve the ambassador's residence?
A: It's what is called "Post 7," which, I believe, is near the ambassador'sresidence.
Q: It was fired on then in other words...?
A: Well, we don't know. We only have a fragmentary report and we don't knowwhat they were aiming at, or if they were aiming -- whether this was justrandom fire. All we know is that fire came in and it was returned.
Q: Just to clarify: this was at the residence, not the embassy?
A: I'm sorry. I don't know. We will try to find out more specifically whereit is. You just better wait until we get more information on where it was.
Q: Do you know what time that was local?
A: Yes, 10:30 [a.m.]. No, I don't know what time it was local. You canfigure that out. It was 10:30 [a.m.] our time. 10:30 [a.m.] our time.
Q: Isn't this the first time the U.S. has discharged weapons -- not justMarines, but Army or Marines or Air Force -- during this recent crisis? Yousay this is the first time the Marines have returned fire.
A: I believe it's the first time any American forces in Monrovia, in thisincident, have returned fire.
Q: Are the Marines leaving the compound at all? Are they out in the city atall looking to...
A: My understanding is they are not. That they are protecting -- they'reprotecting the compound. That's what they are there for.
Q: One Marine was injured slightly?
A: No, no Marine was injured. One Marine was grazed. He required no medicalattention.
Q: If he's grazed, why is he not injured?
A: It could be his -- it could be his sleeve. I don't know the details. AllI know is they decided that he didn't require medical attention.
Q: Well, grazed usually refers to flesh, not clothing.
A: I have not seen what happened to the Marine. The Marines have told me thathe required no medical attention. They described it as a grazing. They saidhe didn't require medical attention. I don't know how you define that. I'vetold you everything I know about it. I can't tell you anything more. [Crosstalk - Laughter] I'll let you guys advertise the abilities of the MarineCorps.
Anything else? Yes?
Q: Can you comment, last week the Advisory Committee on Women in Services --DACOWITS -- recommended that the Pentagon end it's association with ROTCprograms at schools that discriminate on the basis of gender. Does theDepartment intend to act on that recommendation and, specifically, to doanything about its relationship with VMI and the Citadel?
A: I'll take the question. Anything else?
Q: Any comments on what is happening in Bosnia as refugees try to exercisetheir rights under the Dayton Accords to return to their villages? They arediscovering that is not possible. And now it appears that the militarycommanders there are preventing them from going back to their villages,especially, when it means crossing the zone of separation for fear that it willjust stimulate conflict.
Doesn't that sort of fly in the face of what the Dayton Accord is supposed tobe accomplishing?
A: The Dayton Accord, under Annex number 7, lays out the policies for dealingwith refugees; and it lays out the policies for helping refugees return totheir homes. The organizations that are primarily responsible for dealing withrefugees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees -- Mrs. Ogata andher organization. And then there's a new commission set up under the DaytonAccord -- a nine-member commission -- that's a commission for displacedpersons. And they are in the process of setting up procedures for refugeereturn.
In cases where those procedures have been followed, we believe that the returnhas gone smoothly. What we're seeing here tend to be more in the form ofdemonstrations. And we have asked all sides to be calm. We have asked allsides to try to honor the rules and take actions that aren't designed toprovoke the other side.
The organizations responsible for enforcing law and order are the partiesthemselves and their police forces. It is not IFOR's job, as defined in theDayton Accords, to provide crowd control services. IFOR is available to act tomaintain order if requested to do so. And what IFOR has done in these cases isto try to keep the sides separated so the demonstrations don't get out of hand.This has, in most cases, worked. Not in all cases. But that's what IFOR isstriving to do.
Q: Did you sit in on the meetings between Volker Ruehe and the Secretary?
A: No, I did not.
Q: Would you take the question on the subject that came up of whether theSecretary urged Germany to ride herd over it's private companies to make surethat they don't transfer high tech material to the Libyans building...?
A: Well, I'll take the question. The Secretary himself addressed that at thephoto opportunity, and you might go look at the transcript of that.
Press: Thank you. -END -