|4/12/99- By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
-- President Clinton told service members gathered at
Barksdale Air Force Base, La., that Yugoslav President
Slobodan Milosevic "should be under no illusions
that we will end [the air campaign] from weariness. We
are determined to continue on this mission, and we will
Clinton praised the military members for their efforts
over Yugoslavia and their efforts on behalf of the more
than 500,000 ethnic Albanian Kosovar refugees forced from
their homes. Clinton traveled to the base April 12.
Clinton said the United States must stand firm with the
18 other NATO allies to ensure the 21st century does not
match the 20th century for blood.
"We would like to nip this conflict in the bud
before it destabilizes all of Europe," Clinton said.
"And we don't want American soldiers, sailors,
airmen and Marines to die on distant battlefields in
large numbers because we walked away from these ethnic,
religious and racial atrocities."
Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs Army Gen. Henry Shelton, Acting Air Force
Secretary Whitten Peters, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen.
Michael Ryan and a congressional delegation from
Louisiana and Texas accompanied Clinton.
The president said all those in positions of
responsibility are committed to supporting service
members, not only in their efforts against Milosevic, but
in other areas.
"I listened very, very carefully today when the crew
members talked to me about the challenges of maintaining
a long-term career in the military today," Clinton
said. He said the aircrews were candid about the
challenges they and their families face. He understands
the pay, medical care and housing problems service
"We are working on that," Clinton said.
"We know that now that we have downsized the
military, and the economy in the civilian sector has
picked up, we're going to have to work harder to get and
keep good people. Our new budget provides for an increase
in pay and more money for housing and other quality of
life supports, for more support and training and
Clinton told the service members he is signing an
executive order granting 1999 tax benefits to Americans
serving in/or in support of combat operations in the
former Yugoslavia. He also announced an automatic
extension for those involved in Operation Allied Force
for filing 1998 taxes. Defense officials said later they
will have more details in a few days.
The president praised NATO members for sticking together
to confront Milosevic. "There are a lot of people
who didn't think that an alliance of 19 countries could
do what we have done and could stay together as we have
stayed together," he said. "But when American
B-52s like the ones here at Barksdale take to the skies,
they're joined by British Harrier jets, German and
Italian Tornadoes, French Mirages, Canadian and Spanish
F-18s, Dutch, Danish, Belgian, Norwegian, Portuguese and
Turkish F-16s. We are united in this effort."