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Cohen, Shelton Praise Desert Fox Warriors

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 1998 – America's military men and women deserve high praise for executing Operation Desert Fox, the Pentagon's senior leaders said Dec. 17.

"It is inevitable that during conflict our focus will be on our weapons and their effectiveness," said Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "but we must not lose sight of the fact that it is our people who make the difference."

Shelton and Defense Secretary William Cohen saluted service members on the second day of Desert Fox, the air campaign designed to degrade Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program and his ability to threaten his neighbors.

The chairman said the nation's soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines make America the super power that it is. "We owe our men and women in uniform carrying out this operation a great deal," Shelton said.

Cohen noted that military men and women frequently work under adverse conditions, and each day, they risk their lives practicing wartime skills.

"In wartime or peacetime, they're out there training," the secretary said. "When I was in the Gulf in August, the temperature on the ships was 160 degrees -- combined humidity and heat. Nonetheless, they had made 2,000 launches during the month of August."

Each week, as units work to maintain high combat readiness, Cohen said, troops' lives are lost. "Their lives are in danger just by virtue of the fact that they are the best fighting force in the world," he said. And during operations like Desert Fox, they face new threats.

"Those pilots flying over Baghdad run the risk of being hit by surface-to-air missiles," Cohen said. "They run the risk of being captured. Service members in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia run the risk of a Scud missile attack."

But, Cohen said, protecting U.S. forces is a top military priority. "We have taken every defensive measure that we can. They are prepared. Our military is performing extremely well, and every American should be proud of the troops participating in Desert Fox."

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