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Media Outnumber U.S. Troops In Bosnia

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 1995 – Dan Rather is anchoring CBS nightly news from Tuzla. Jack McWethey, ABC's Pentagon correspondent, is in Tuzla with his TV crew. NBC's Tom Brokaw is slated to arrive on the weekend. The world's press is "reporting live" from Bosnia.

About 1,650 reporters, photographers, camera operators and technicians are registered at the U.N. press center in Tuzla. Right now, there are more media in Tuzla than there are U.S. soldiers, according to U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Howell Estes III, operations director for the Joint Staff. "The media outnumbers U.S. forces about 5to1," he said during a Pentagon briefing.

News teams in Bosnia are covering just about every move of the 250 or so U.S. service members paving the way for the 60,000 troops soon to deploy. About 70 U.S. troops are on the ground in Croatia.

Bosnia's warweary parties signed a peace agreement in Paris today. President Clinton witnessed the signing. Now that the agreement is signed, DoD officials said, the U.N. Security Council will pass a resolution supporting the mission, NATO's North Atlantic Council will order NATO's deployment and Clinton will give the go ahead to more than 20,000 U.S. troops poised and ready in Europe.

In the days ahead, the number of Americans in Bosnia, Hungary and Croatia will steadily rise as trains, planes and buses start rolling in. A bridge company is standing by to put a pontoon bridge across Bosnia's Sava River, a prerequisite for the main body's drive into the divided, mountainous land. M1 Abrams main battle tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles, known as humvees, will travel from staging points in Hungary to Tuzla.

According to Estes, the enabling forces in Tuzla have been finding locations for the base camps and doing other work and coordination needed to support the arrival of 1st Armored Division from Germany. They've also been readying Tuzla airfield for the arrival of the main body of the American division.

The objective is to make Tuzla an allweather airfield, Estes said, capable of handling day and night operations and severe winter weather. U.S. troops have had to upgrade the lighting, put in navigational aids, air control and cargo handling systems.

A Joint Information Bureau has also been set up in Tuzla, Estes said. "With so many media over there, we've had to quickly get that in to help the media get access to the kinds of things they're interested in," he said.

Armed Forces Radio and Television Service began broadcasting on Dec. 9, on FM 100.1, Estes said. "This will be a means of getting information to the troops about what's going on outside of Bosnia, as well as information important to them while they're there." he said. The Stars & Stripes newspaper has set up a Tuzla bureau and plans to begin distributing the Germanybased daily paper immediately after the main body arrives. Already about 100 papers are being delivered each day to Tuzla and to staging areas in Hungary.

Estes said soldiers arriving in Bosnia can expect to find field conditions. They'll live in heated, lighted tents with wooden floors. Some initial forces are staying in leased buildings. Estes said daytime temperatures in Tuzla have been in the 30s and low 40s. "We want to make sure we're making things as comfortable as we possibly can," Estes said. "These conditions will improve over time."

Three hot meals a day will also be an objective. Estes said most soldiers don't consider Meals, Ready to Eat with a hot pack a hot meal. But for the time being, that's what it will be, supplemented by fresh milk, bread and fruit. "As time goes by, as the mess tents are set up and base camps are built," Estes said, "you'll find the feeding conditions will move from rations of this kind to hot, prepared meals provided for the troops daily."

As the forces move in, Estes said, every precaution will be taken to safeguard service members. "It is our obligation to ensure that the troops have the ability to protect themselves against the threat of an attack or an actual attack, be it sniper or anything else they may confront," he said. "We want no mistake about this, and we want to make it very clear that they have this authority."

Estes said the forces are coming well equipped with all of things necessary to protect themselves and ensure this peace agreement is carried out. "This is clearly a peace effort," he said. "We hope that we have no conditions under which we have to use the amount of force we're taking in to carry out any part of this agreement. But we want everybody to understand that if this force is threatened, it has the ability and the authority to protect itself."

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