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Military News Briefs for the Week of March 23, 2001

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 23, 2001 – (This is a summary of the American Forces Press Service news stories for the week ending March 23, 2001.)



The United States and NATO have condemned the escalating violence ignited by extremist ethnic Albanian guerrillas in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and support efforts to quell the conflict.

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson announced his intent March 19 to seek more troops from NATO's 19 member nations to secure the Kosovo-FYROM border. U.S. officials said the president would decide whether to contribute more troops once the NATO request is received. About 5,600 Americans serve in the NATO-led Kosovo Force. Another 400 U.S. troops provide logistics support for the Kosovo mission from a base in Skopje, Macedonia.

"U.S. forces and the others in the sector have stepped up their activities considerably in the last few days," DoD spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said during a March 20 Pentagon news briefing. So far, peacekeepers have detained insurgents trying to cross the border, interdicted arms shipments and seized weapon caches, he noted.

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called newly appointed Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz "the right man" during a March 16 full honors welcoming ceremony at the Pentagon.

"He has intellect and integrity that is surpassed only by his dedication to the men and women in uniform," Rumsfeld said. "The men and women in uniform do truly noble work, work that is different from the work of others, in that they voluntarily put their lives at risk. And I'm delighted that this very talented public servant, who understands that very well, is back again to serve our country."

"Today, we reaffirm our pledge to ensure both our strength and our security," Wolfowitz said. "Our courageous forces and their families risk all on our behalf. We need to remember them and to support them every day with every fiber of our being."

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TRICARE's new dental insurance program will help ensure reservists are ready to deploy when they're called, DoD medical officials said.

"We want to encourage a higher level of dental health and dental readiness than we saw during Desert Storm/Desert Shield," said TRICARE officials. Medical officials called reservists' dental readiness "unfortunately low" during the 1990-91 Gulf War.

The new TRICARE Dental Plan went into effect Feb. 1. It replaces the TRICARE Selected Reserve Dental Program and provides reservists and their family members the same dental benefits package available to active duty members. The new program will also help the reserve components meet a 1998 DoD requirement that says they must document an annual dental screening for all their service members.

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