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Chairman Says Service Members Aware of Need for Bosnia Force

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 1995 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said U.S. service members are well aware of the stakes at risk in Bosnia and are prepared for the duty.

Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili said everyone in the U.S. military knows a stable Europe is essential to U.S. national interests and war in the former Yugoslavia threatens that stability. "For the United States, having brokered the peace [among Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia], to back away would be inconceivable," Shalikashvili said during an interview.

The average service member also understands the need for American leadership, he said. "Every service member will understand for the United States at this time to back away would do tremendous damage to America's ability to remain the influential power around the world," he said.

The chairman said he and the Clinton administration have been up front about the possibility of casualties in the Bosnian peace operation, Joint Endeavor. He said Americans have always been reluctant to put troops in operations. "Short of Pearl Harbor, it would have been difficult to get the United States involved in World War II," he said. U.S. operations in Haiti received low support to start, but gained acceptance once it became apparent the operation was successful, he said.

"In Bosnia, we must continue to work to persuade the public that this is the right course," Shalikashvili said. "We need to be up front with our men and women in uniform and the public that this is not a mission without risk and that casualties are likely."

At this time, Shalikashvili said he foresees more non combatrelated casualties and deaths than combat casualties. He said Bosnia will not be a replay of Somalia. "People thought we went into Somalia just to feed the hungry and then started seeing pictures of American dead, it was really unexpected," he said. "I believe there is an issue of backlash when casualties occur. But this is not Somalia where the public felt they were mislead."

Shalikashvili said service members going to Bosnia will go for one year, with some exceptions. "If you are stationed in Europe and your normal [date of estimated return from overseas service] comes after the first 90 days of the operation, then you will rotate home and a replacement will come." he said. "There are also [reserve component members] who will go for 270 or less days. There are also some service members in specialties that will go in, do their jobs and rotate out, but the services have agreed the bulk of the service members will go in for the duration."

The chairman said the U.S. European Command officials are already working on policies governing home leave and R&R. "Everyone is already working very hard to ensure all the morale services will be there," he said. Command officials are working on communication links back to home stations or to the United States. They are also looking at intheater rest and recuperation sites for troops stationed in the former Yugoslavia. Shalikashvili said it is much too early to get into particulars.

He said he is satisfied with the rules of engagement. He said the rules allow NATO service members to protect themselves against hostile acts or hostile intents. "There are circumstances where you should not ask a soldier to wait until a hostile act is committed before replying," Shalikashvili said. The rules also allow the NATO force to use force, including deadly force, to accomplish their missions. "At each level [of command] there are rules to get the job done."

Working within the 1st Armored Division the big muscle for the American sector will be the Nordic Brigade, a Turkish battalion combat team and a Russian brigade. The Russian brigade will take tactical orders from the U.S. division commander. Operational orders will come from a Russian deputy to U.S. commander, Gen. George Joulwan. "That way the Russians can say we work for Joulwan, not for NATO," Shalikashvili said. "When you think about it, who would have thought six months ago you would have a Russian brigade under the tactical control of an American division commander to do a job in Bosnia?"

Shalikashvili said the situation on the ground in the American sector is "cold" but the reception has been warm. "The Nordic battalion has been there for some time," he said. "They've helped us tremendously. They have shared intelligence with us, started to demine the airfields and acted as guides and hosts."

The chairman is worried about antiAmerican riots and demonstrations around Sarajevo and said he will watch the situation closely. As for criticism that U.S. soldiers can't handle the environment, Shalikashvili said, "American soldiers are not fair weather soldiers. They do quite well in cold and heat. We've operated all over the world, probably more so than any other soldiers. It's probably no colder in Tuzla [headquarters for the U.S. effort] than in Baumholder [the main base for the 1st Armored Division]."

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