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News Briefing by Lieutenant General John M. "Mike" McDuffie, J-4

Presenters: Lieutenant General John M. "Mike" McDuffie, J-4
June 30, 1999 2:00 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

Napoleon said that armies move on their stomachs, and the man in charge of moving our Army on its stomach or elsewise is Lieutenant General Mike McDuffie, and he's here to tell you about how we are moving our Army troops into Kosovo.

Welcome back, General McDuffie.

[Charts available at http://defenselink.mil/news/#SLIDES]

General McDuffie: Thank you, Ken.

Good afternoon everybody.

{Chart - U.S. Component of KFOR: Deployment & Sustainment Concept]

In the past I came and talked about humanitarian assistance, and I'll cover that at the very, very end with you a little bit, but today we'd like to just talk about how our forces in fact are not only flowing into our operations in Kosovo, but also give you a little background information on how we intend to sustain our force -- not real fancy stuff, but this is kind of the meat and potatoes issues of an operation. I'll talk a little bit about the Falcon movement, sustainment, medical support, engineering support -- which is very important to what we're doing there -- and then some final thoughts.

[Chart - TF Falcon Initial Deployment]

Many of you have already been to the region, so you know what it looks like. But as you know, when we had the technical agreement signed, our initial entry forces came -- actually the U.S. Marines or the USS KEARSARGE -- up through Greece, the Port of Thessaloniki, up into Skopje, and of course continued on into Gnjilane. Then we had an initial piece of what was part of Task Force Hawk, as you well know, was actually airlifted from Albania into Skopje, and again ground movement up into Gnjilane into the U.S. sector. So this was very successful and went very rapidly, as you know. That was our first piece.

[Chart - TF Falcon Deployment from Germany]

Then as we got into the force packages one and two, we started a sizeable deployment from Germany, the central region, into our AOR through, again, Thessaloniki for the sealift and into Skopje for the airlift.

It was a multi-nodal deployment, if you would, and that is using sealift, rail and airlift at the different rails. As you can see, we had trains that took our heavy equipment up into Bremerhaven, our port there where they stage, and I'll talk a little bit more about the two vessels that in fact are en-route down to Thessaloniki now, and then the airlift from Ramstein down into Skopje.

Slide, please.

So sea, air, and rail.

[Chart - Sealift Supporting Move From Germany]

I'd like to talk a little bit about the two vessels that [are] bringing in our heavy equipment. This is really a good news story.

At the end of DESERT STORM, as you know, we did an analysis of our sealift capability, and this is called the large, medium-speed RO/RO or the LMSR, as we always stated in the acronym world. It's a very, very large ship, about the size of an aircraft carrier, if you haven't seen one. It will also go about 24 knots and will carry a lot of equipment.

The USNS BOB HOPE, in fact, has arrived at Thessaloniki today and commences its download. It has a heavy armored task force on it -- tanks, Bradleys, artillery pieces, and other heavy equipment. The SONDERMAN, which is another large, medium speed RO/RO, in fact as you can see, departed on the 25th and will arrive on the 3rd of July. So these are the two major muscle movements of the force closure now for our piece of KFOR. Very, very important, very, very capable. This is a major piece of our power projection capability.

The United States military's ability to power project is a triad, and that's sealift, airlift, and the pre-positioning piece. These vessels give us tremendous capability not only in the sealift piece, but we also have heavy forces pre-positioned aboard these, and we will continue to do that. So to me this is really a breakout story of a very, very, very good effort at the end of DESERT SHIELD and STORM.

[Chart - Sustainment Concept for TF Falcon]

Let's talk about sustainment. How are we going to continue to take care of our troops in the field? We'll do that with the sea lock here coming in through the Port of Thessaloniki.

We have an interesting operation there, because most of the nations that are supporting KFOR, working within KFOR, are using this port, so we've got a multinational cell there that deconflicts the arrival of ships. Then of course, any emergency type of lift or emergency supplies needed we will fly into Skopje using Ramstein as our hub in the central region. Then of course, they'll be ground convoyed up into Gnjilane.

[Chart - Medical Support to TF Falcon]

Let's talk a little bit about medical support to Task Force Falcon. You hear the comment "Level 3 care." I always like to say that that's where you can really get your life saved if you're really in trouble. We've got that well forward, right up in Gnjilane. That's the capability. So if we had a trooper who is seriously ill or injured, we can take care of it right there. We didn't have that back-up capability in Skopje, and of course they have a very, very robust aerovac capability, helicopter in the region back to Skopje where you can transload into fixed wing aircraft, and then we can evacuate wherever is needed based on the injury, so we've got the medical piece taken.

[Chart - Engineer Support in US Sector]

Engineering support. As you know, we really didn't know exactly what we were going to find in our AOR, so we have a fairly robust engineering capability that will close with this force. As you can see, it is joint. Besides an Army engineer group you also have a SEABEE battalion from the Navy. They have the following capabilities: They can do road/bridge repair, base camp construction. In fact we'll be building two base camps within the U.S. sector. Those will be primarily contracted out and built by U.S. contractor with the sea hut design, and very similar to things that we learned in Bosnia using the lessons learned from Bosnia. Of course, the Navy SEABEES again, road, bridge, base camp construction, stopping fire fighting. They've got the capability to do minefield marking, clearing, and those types of things.

Again, those engineers are designed as part of that force package to be able to enable the military mission in our region.

Next slide.

[Chart - Engineer Support in Albania]

Now there's been talk about this took off out of Albania. In fact we still have efforts ongoing in Albania with engineers.

The Navy SEABEES were working on the road, if you remember, that real tough road I showed you some pictures of probably a month ago where we had 41 switchbacks. They continue to work that road and have made some success on it, and still have a Red Horse team, that's the Air Force engineer piece, that continue[s] to do work in operations in Tirane.

Then real quick on Camp Hope and the humanitarian, we actually turned over Camp Hope to the U.N. relief agency CARE, over the weekend. So that, in fact, has been turned over now. As you all know, though, the refugee situation continues to, in our view, improve, from the standpoint of the numbers of refugees that are in Albania and in Montenegro and in Macedonia. In fact, over half of the population that we once had has now returned to Kosovo.

So that all said, what's some final thoughts?

If we were going to conduct a war game and use the terrain in Macedonia, the terrain in Albania, the lines of communication in Kosovo, as a logistician, I would say this is tough business.

You remember we were talking about our initial footprint into Albania. We basically had one airfield, and we had to do a significant amount of improvement on an airfield. You look at the lines of communication on the ground -- that one road in Albania through Kukes, the one road from Skopje into Kosovo, the draft of the port in Durres, all significant logistics challenges, especially with the infrastructure.

But I will tell you, because of our really incredible capabilities and a lot of tenacity and hard work, that the strategic lifters and the engineers and the logisticians made this operation work very, very well. Did we ever have a warp? Sure we did. Did we ever have to work on some specifics? Sure, we did. But overall, they went very well, and we're in a very good position today to continue that support. We feel pretty good about it.

On the humanitarian side, as you know, we worked very hard on that, did a lot of early work, provided a lot of HDRs. As a matter of fact, I saw live on TV today those HDRs are still being passed out in places. That's a good sign. And we were very prepared right at the end, had we have found significant concentrations of IDPs, since we really did not know if we would. We were prepared for that. We were prepared to fly in, drop in, helicopter in, do whatever we needed to do to take care of those folks, if we found them in dire straits.

So overall logistically, we're set, in my view, very well to continue the force flow for KFOR and then sustain KFOR, and we'll continue to monitor the refugee situation. We still have, I think it's less than 1,000 refugees now at Fort Dix. That's on track to close out by the end of the month. Again, we're set from the standpoint of if we were to find a significant problem somewhere, we have stocks pre-positioned in Europe to react accordingly.

That's all I have. Questions?

Q: Secretary Cohen just told us that he was looking at accelerating the forces, the KFOR forces into the area, so in the next two weeks the majority of the 55,000 will be in. How big a challenge is that, and how much of an acceleration is that from your original plan?

General McDuffie: I can really only speak to the U.S. piece at this time. I just don't have the other information.

We plan on having our pieces closed within the next two weeks. So on our time table, we are well within that. In fact, we're probably going to beat it by three or four days.

Q: Does it represent an acceleration at least of U.S. forces?

General McDuffie: Yes. In fact when I say acceleration, we are putting the forces in as fast as the infrastructure will let us do that. We have been very aggressive in getting our forces in. In fact, we've done a lot of pre-planning and anticipating that we'd have an agreement and some command and control work to work that.

Q: Could you clarify, or maybe Ken could. Has Cohen actually ordered an acceleration of forces? Or is this three-or-four day speed-up simply due to the fact the infrastructure is going a little more smoothly?

Mr. Bacon: We have not ordered an acceleration of our forces. They are proceeding on a plan that was laid out before, as General McDuffie said. As soon as the infrastructure is ready, we move in. We've been doing that from the beginning. We now have, I think, 4,500 people in our sector. We will go up to 7,000. The Marines will come out as the 1st Infantry Division goes in.

But our deployment plan, I think as General McDuffie said, was laid out some time ago, and the fact that we were moving through a combination of rail and sea really set the deployment schedule as much as anything. The passengers, of course, are being flown down in 747s, and I think they start leaving tomorrow, is that right?

General McDuffie: At multiple places going in.

When I talk about accelerating, what we've done is we've gone in and done a fair amount of coordination work, as an example, in Thessaloniki where you've got different nations coming in and we've worked very closely with the Greeks to accelerate the through-put so we don't have a bottleneck. That's what I was really talking about when -- we're looking at every measure to try and keep this through-put going.

Q: From the time the first tanks were put on, the tanks to be taken and put aboard the BOB HOPE to today when the BOB HOPE got there, how long was that?

General McDuffie: I'll have to look on the days here. I've got it somewhere written down. About 24 days, if I remember specifically. But let me verify that for you.

Q: With regard to the IDPs, are they, those that were in the mountains, what numbers were there? Have they come out in pretty good shape? What more can you tell us about the Guard? And what about the indigenous foodstuffs? What's been planted? What's going to be available? What's available for those refugees that are going back?

General McDuffie: I really can't answer your question on the last piece as far as the planting, because I just don't have that information.

The numbers of IDPs, again, we planned for what we thought was a potential disaster of IDPs. What we have found as we've gone in throughout Kosovo is you did not have the IDP problem that we could have had. I've heard lots of stories about people living in their houses and then taking off and actually staying out in the forest for a period of time when things got bad, coming back and staying in their houses, trying to take care of the livestock. So we were planning for this very large grouping of IDPs. As you know, we had all types of transportation assets set up, but we just haven't found it. There was an initial report when we first went in that in fact the HDRs down to about 2,500, if I remember right. We were in pretty bad shape.

When I said bad shape, they needed something to eat. I mean they weren't on the verge of dying, but it was the first stop that, "oh, my goodness, we may find more." We really have not found any large numbers of IDPs.

Remember when we were forecasting those, those were based on different intelligence sources; it was based on the UNHCR giving us their anticipated numbers. We were really just planning for the worst there.

Q: Now how many IDPs?

General McDuffie: I don't have an exact number, but it has not been a problem. We have not received the reports in from any of the sectors that we have numbers of IDPs that aren't being taken care of.

Q: What about food to support...

General McDuffie: It's been no problem. From day one there have been major food convoys that have gone in from Skopje. The World Food program was prepared at the border, just like a military operation, as soon as the agreement was signed and as soon as they had an environment to start moving thousands of metric tons a day into the region.

I have not received one single report of any problem with food.

Q: General, you talk about phasing out the refugee program at Fort Dix. Are you taking those refugees back over? Have any been taken back over? Do you plan to take them back over.

General McDuffie: Again, we don't make that decision in the Department of Defense. That's a State and an HHS-operated initiative.

To my knowledge, none of the refugees have gone back, though. They've all been placed with families in the United States. And again, I'd defer that, and I think that has something to do with refugee status and the legal pieces of that.

Q: Can I ask you another question about refugees? General Jackson indicated this morning that as many as 450,000 refugees had come back across, and were going back into their homes, and they expected most of them to be in by July. That's quite a number of people who are moving through that area. Is that a logistics problem for U.S. forces or for any other forces?

General McDuffie: I will just be very candid with you. That is, this is a good news story. They're moving back in. There's always logistics problems, taking 300,000 or 450,000 people. But we have not found it to be something that has really influenced or got in the way of our operations.

So the UNHCR World Food Program -- many people really anticipated that this refugee flow would crank up very, very rapidly to go back because that was the information that they got day-to-day.

The refugees that stayed up in Kukes stayed there for a reason. We tried to get them, if you remember, to go down more into the interior of the country. They wanted to stay there, because as soon as that war ended, they wanted to go back to their homes.

So we consider it a good news story. In my view the World Food Program and the U.N. relief agencies planned for this fairly well and have been able to get the foodstuffs and other care out. So we see it going pretty good.

Q: General, you talked about how the IDP situation wasn't as dire as some had anticipated. What about the condition of the roads and the level of destruction of houses? What have you found and how does it compare to expectations?

General McDuffie: I really don't know, because I don't have a reference point of my view, and I have not personally been there.

You've seen as many reports and you all have connections there with the pictures as well as we do. So it's different in different sectors. We anticipated that we would have difficulty with the lines of communication with roads, with bridging in the sectors to go in and establish that safe, secure environment. We put the appropriate force mix in to do that.

So is it a surprise? No, I think we expected to see significant damage in infrastructure. However, within Kosovo in the U.S. sector specifically, it has not been as bad as some anticipated. Now that is in the U.S. sector I'm talking about, and that is from our reports from our U.S. forces. I can't speak really to the other nations' sectors, because I don't have that. NATO would. And we could get that.

Q: General, I want to get clear on these IDPs. We were told -- we were expect[ing] to see 500,000 folks hiding in the hills. Was it that those intelligence reports and humanitarian reports were wrong, or did all of those people as soon as the war ended come back into their houses, so there was no way of telling how many were there?

General McDuffie: It's hypothetical, and I really can't answer it.

We had some intelligence that showed concentrations of people in the woods. But by no means did we get into a head-counting type of an operation much like we did in the Africa crises in 1996 when we actually used P-3 Orions and others actually to do that. You could really do the finite work. We really didn't. We had the Predator and some of the UAVs in looking at that and some overhead intelligence.

So we had some concentrations -- camp fires and other things. But we pretty much relied on the information we received from the UNHCR, based on their experience, and they really are very experienced in this on what they thought the IDP situation should be. So we planned accordingly.

Remember, when I first briefed in here, I think I had a slide of IDPs and it was a range of 200,000 to a million, if I remember right, thereabouts. Of course then as the flow continued on into Macedonia, we've whittled down that top number.

So the point of those numbers -- and it's easy to Monday morning quarterback, it always is -- and it's a good lesson learned, that we ought to ask that question. But the reality of it is that we had a number, and we planned and worked towards being able to respond to those types of emergencies had they have been found.

Q: But you don't know of any explanation for that discrepancy?

General McDuffie: I really don't. Other than I think the people were trying to give us the best information they could based on past experience.

Q: How many U.S. forces remain in Albania? Is it just what you showed there, and just engineers?

General McDuffie: I don't have the exact number. It's down in the hundreds. It's quite low now. Now we still have Task Force Hawk, which is in the process of redeploying. The last footprint that I talked about -- have you got the number, Steve, exactly what that is? It's a very, very small footprint.

Steve: 2,950.

General McDuffie: But Task Force Hawk now --

Q: 2,950, what is that?

General McDuffie: 2,950 total that's continuing to flow out, but that's mostly Task Force Hawk to redeploy back to the central region. He's asking for the footprint of just the Red Horse and the...

Q: No, I want to know who's there, what's there, and how long are they going to be there.

General McDuffie: We plan on closing out, right now, the rest of the forces that are in Albania. We will have a very small footprint there by the end of the month. Very small footprint.

Q: 2,950 right now?

General McDuffie: By the end of July, excuse me, not June. 2,950 left right now. We hope to have all of Task Force Hawk out of Albania by the 15th of August, and we'll have just a very small footprint at that point in time.

Q: How many of Task Force Hawk are there now?

General McDuffie: 2,950.

Q: Oh. Plus --

General McDuffie: In the engineers we've got a total of, 2,750's Hawk and then 200 engineers. Okay. There you go.

Q: When you said redeployed to the central region, you mean from whence they came?

General McDuffie: Correct. The forces that are there primarily came from our forward position forces.

Q: Some of them went in with Task Force Hawk, though right?

General McDuffie: We're generally talking about Germany.

Q: General, when you refer to finding less damage in the U.S. sector than you expected, in my mind there's two types of damage. One would be damage caused by Serbs burning people's homes and so forth; and the other would be damage caused by the bombing campaign, blowing up bridges. Which of those or both were less than you expected?

General McDuffie: What I was talking about is the damage to the lines of communication. In other words, the ability to go in and be able to move freely enough to be able to establish the safe and secure environment. I'm not talking about damage to homes, I'm not talking about parts of the city. I'm talking about in our initial entry -- our mission is to establish a safe and secure environment -- the damage to the roads and our ability to move. We were able to do that, so we didn't consider that.

Q: Were there bridges that you thought would be blown that were not blown?

General McDuffie: I don't know about the specifics. I can just tell you that we have not been impaired from the standpoint to go out and execute the mission. We'll get more of that as we go on as far as detail.

Q: Do you have a sense of why that is? I know it's a little early, but why the damage is less than you expected it was going to be?

General McDuffie: Again, I'm not so sure -- when I say it's less than we expected it to be, it was less than we expected in order to move around and execute the mission. It really does not, a comparison of how I might as a civilian or someone else would look at the damage from the standpoint of homes and bridges. It is the ability for us to get our mission done, is what I'm talking about.

There will be a full assessment, and I can't really answer the question on how many houses have been burned and how many bridges are out, and this that and the other. What my point was that we were able to move fairly freely in our sector to start our mission to secure the area.

Q: So in those instances where NATO had blown up something, it was easy to get around it?

General McDuffie: If that was the case, or maybe it wasn't blown up. That's the point.

Q: General, you mentioned a couple of times things about lessons learned. Is there any thought here that given that fact that it took you three weeks, give or take, to load this equipment and move it around Europe and into the Med, that there needs to be some kind of depot for pre-positioned equipment in the Med or in the Adriatic region for future use by NATO?

General McDuffie: In fact, there is pre-positioned equipment in Italy, as we speak. In this case, though, when we deploy what we really like to do is we like to deploy units -- when you're close like that -- with their equipment. So in actuality, by the time that you had moved forces down in and drawn the equipment and move it out of Italy, we wouldn't have saved all that much time.

Plus the set in Italy is not modernized to the level, from a communications standpoint, that our set is that the troops took with them.

You know part of our strategy is pre-positioning. In fact, that is an issue right now that's being discussed within NATO is the viability of that set in Italy. It's being looked at.

Q: With regard to the Kosovar Albanians that have been coming into the United States, tell us how many are going out. How many want to go home? Are we giving them a free ticket home? How many still, do they still have a right to have 20,000 in this country or what?

General McDuffie: In fact, we still have refugees coming in, not into Fort Dix. The refugees that are flying in, in fact, are being placed directly with families as they arrive into JFK. But again, as I said earlier, I don't know of any refugees that have returned that came in as part of the U.S. commitment.

Now the U.S. commitment was 20,000. As you know, we talked about that, many, many nations making commitments. I don't know of any back pedaling on that commitment. However, does that mean we have to take 20,000? I don't know what that means other than the fact that we made the commitment, fulfilling the commitment. The vetting has been going on in Macedonia. I don't know of any government policy change to move away from that. But the answer is we haven't had any refugees go back.

Q: Do these people have basically a free ticket to residency in the U.S.?

General McDuffie: I wouldn't be quite that free, or put that much license in. In fact, I'd defer your question really to State on that. It's a refugee issue. But there is a significant amount of vetting that goes on in Macedonia where the flights originate. And it's primarily family-to-family stuff.

Q: How many have come in?

General McDuffie: I should have brought the book. 8,700.

Q: How many have come in since the end of hostilities? You said they're still coming?

General McDuffie: It's a very, very small flow in comparison. Initially, we had a small flow, then we had a very large flow in effect. Fort Dix filled right up in a very short period of time. And then the State Department in fact started a very, very robust vetting process in Macedonia, and so that then directed to direct flights right into JFK where they were met by families. That was the intent all along. But the flow has really, really shrunk.

Q: Do you know how many mines or minefields have been found in the U.S. sector, or by that number how many mine-finding teams we have over there?

General McDuffie: No, I don't know. I do know that the U.S. forces have and will have the capabilities to deal with that, but I don't know.

Press: Thank you very much.