First U.S. Infantrymen Head For Former Yugoslavia With Macedonia
BERLIN (AP) _ American infantrymen were sent off as sentries Monday to help prevent a nasty war from spreading to the only republic to secede from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia without bloodshed.
The 156 blue-bereted soldiers from the Army’s Berlin Brigade who left for Macedonia on a cool, overcast morning are the first U.S. combat troops to be sent to former Yugoslavia.
Their company will join a 700-man U.N. peacekeeping force, mostly Scandinavian, guarding Macedonia’s border with Serbia and be under the command of a Danish general.
Commanders say they expect the Americans to be on border patrol in about a month. Support units sent last week are busy making a former Yugoslav army barracks liveable.
In a brief departure ceremony held in a McNair Barracks movie house because rain threatened, the Army’s commander-in-chief for Europe told the soldiers he thought ″Able Sentry″ an appropriate name for their mission considering the elite unit’s Cold War job.
″Now you’re being asked to be ‘able sentries’ again on a different border in a different mission,″ said Gen. David Maddox.
About one-third of the soldiers from Charlie Company, 106th Battalion, 502nd Infantry were leaving behind wives.
″We know what they’re going for but we don’t really know what’s going to happen once they’re there,″ said Debra Cook of San Antonio. She and her son Timothy were saying goodbye to Albert Cook, a sergeant.
In a single tight embrace outside the theater just before the soldiers boarded buses for Tegel airport were Spc. 4 Noel Trejo, his wife and daughter.
″I’m worried,″ Maria Trejo, of Austin, Texas, said of her husband’s mission.
After all, he was going to the Balkans, a place where warfare has been savage and foreigners unwelcome. While there is no imminent danger of war spreading to Macedonia, the republic could find itself threatened if Serbia decides to seize a region it has long coveted.
Serbian nationalists consider Macedonia part of ″southern Serbia.″
About 60,000 heavily armed Serbian troops with hundreds of tanks are poised just north of the vaguely defined border with Macedonia, which has just 14,000 lightly armed troops.
The Berlin Brigade force, 300 soldiers in all, will be the second American unit actually on the ground in former Yugoslavia.
Another 300 Americans are staffing a U.S. Army field hospital in Croatia. U.S. planes are also flying relief missions over Bosnia.