From the S&S archives:Clinton addresses Bosnia-bound troops at Baumholder
December 3, 1995
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — President Clinton gave 1st Armd Div soldiers reassuring orders Saturday, telling them to respond "immediately and with decisive force" if threatened with attack in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The pronouncement drew a roar of approval from the 4,000 troops who stood in formation in fatigues during the cold, damp afternoon.
The troops face a mix of snipers, ethnic hatreds and millions of land mines planted under snow-covered fields in the war-torn former Yugoslavia.
But Clinton told the thousands of soldiers and family members gathered at Smith Barracks that the upcoming year-long NATO peacekeeping deployment to Bosnia is vital to "keep our country strong in this time of challenge and change."
Thick fog prevailed most of the morning, delaying the noon arrival of the president's entourage in Baumholder. He arrived about 30 minutes late after traveling in a half-mile-long motorcade from Ramstein AB. The fog prevented him from flying by helicopter. Clinton arrived with his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, at Baumholdcr in a presidential limousine.
On stage with Clinton was Gen. George A. Joulwan, supreme allied commander, Europe, and commander of the U.S. European Comd; Maj. Gen. William L. Nash, commander of the 1st Armd Div; Togo West Jr., secretary of the Army; and Anthony Lake, national security adviser.
During a 15-minute speech, Clinton outlined the problems in Bosnia and why the United States must play a major role in bringing stability to the region.
Clinton recalled that during the Persian Gulf War, U.S. troops were asked to help liberate Kuwait from Iraq. In Haiti, he said, America was "supported by a lot of nations that had no direct interest in Haiti, but they answered our call.
"Now in Bosnia, we are needed. You are needed."
Clinton also addressed how tough military life can be.
"We send you a long way from home, for a long time. We take you away from your children and your loved ones," he said.. "These are the burdens you assumed for America — to stand up for our values, to serve our commitments, to keep our country strong in this time of challenge and change."
Clinton also spoke of the dangers of the mission. "You know better than anyone," Clinton said, "that no deployment is without risks."
Even with the aggressive rules of engagement that have been approved, Clinton warned that casualties will occur once 20,000 U.S. ground troops are sent to help implement a fragile peace treaty,
"As president, I take full responsibility for your well-being, but I also take pride in the knowledge that we are making this mission as safe as it can be," Clinton said.
Clinton concluded his address by saying that children of the 1st Armd Div soldiers "know you are heroes for peace. Soon, Bosnian children will know."
After the speech, Clinton and his wife took to the crowd, shaking the hands of enthusiastic soldiers and family members for about 35 minutes.
The Clintons then ate a turkey lunch at the Iron Inn troop dining facility with about 100 soldiers and family members.
One soldier-cook, Spec. Martin Escobar, said it was "a real honor" to help prepare a meal for the president. "I never thought I'd do that," he said.
After lunch, Clinton received a briefing from senior Army leaders at the Rheinlander Club. Then he and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl held a brief, impromptu session with reporters.
Kohl said Germany would send 4,000 troops to Bosnia, the first deployment of German troops outside their homeland since World War II.
Clinton said he came to Baumholder — where the majority of 1st Armd Div soldiers are stationed — to personally explain his decision to send U.S. troops to Bosnia after refusing to send them the past three years.
"I wanted to give them straight answers, " Clinton said. "There are no hidden or dark motives here."
Back inside, Clinton gave his weekly radio address live from the Rheinlander Club, with about 35 soldiers allowed to attend the broadcast.
In his address, Clinton noted that, the leaders of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia have pledged in letters to take all possible measures to ensure the safety of the peacekeeping force.
"They have made a serious commitment to peace but they can't do it alone," Clinton said. "They need our help, to help re-establish the conditions under which people can live in decency and peace."
About 700 U.S. soldiers trained in communications and logistics will head for Bosnia in days, as soon as Clinton signs an authorizing order requested by Joulwan. Officials said Joulwan would act soon, perhaps as early as today.
Before leaving for Ramstein AB enroute to Madrid, Spain, to wind up his five-day European trip, Clinton said he was leaving Baumholder with "an immense feeling of gratitude."
While it is important for soldiers to succeed when in uniform, that also holds true "in their family lives," he said. "This, (deployment) is a family commitment, as well as an American commitment."
Contributing to this report: Staff writer C.S. Albright, Darmstadt, Germany; and The Associated Press.