Statement of General Henry H. Shelton
Mr. Chairman, distinguished Congressmen and women: Thank you for the opportunity to appear before this distinguished committee to talk about Operation Allied Force.
Let me begin by recognizing the outstanding men and women of the US armed forces participating in this endeavor. These great soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines have done everything we have asked of them and have done it with the professionalism, skill, and courage we have come to expect from our well-trained and dedicated force.
Over the course of last week, I know several members of Congress, the Secretary, and I visited the 31st Air Expeditionary Wing at Aviano, Italy and our Air Force team in Ramstein on the front lines of the air war against Yugoslavia. I know that those members who made this trip would echo my comments. The troops at Aviano, as well as other areas in the region, are magnificent. They believe in America, our mission, and our cause. Everyone who visits there comes away profoundly impressed by the enthusiasm, competence, and vigilance they see displayed by the men and women in uniform. These qualities can also be found in abundance in the Theodore Roosevelt battle group, the Kearsarge ARG, Task Force Hawk, and all the other elements participating in Operation Allied Force. The sense of duty and self-sacrifice these men and women possess should be an inspiration for all Americans.
I know that you join me in both praise and prayer for these brave Americans and their families as they go in harms way every day in the pursuit of peace in Kosovo. Likewise, our thoughts and prayers go out also to the three soldiers currently being held in Yugoslavia and their families as we work for their safe return. They will not be forgotten.
I talk with my counterparts from the NATO countries regularly, and they are solidly behind the goals of this endeavor. All the NATO nations are partners in this effort and determined to see Operation Allied Force through until we have achieved our goals.
Let me emphasize that our military goal is and has been to reduce the ability of the Serbian military and security forces. Our objective can be achieved despite the considerable challenges of the situation including the bad weather in Southern Europe this time of year, the rugged terrain in the Balkans, the robust air defenses of Yugoslavia, and the ability of Serbian forces to disperse and camouflage their equipment to avoid detection and destruction.
This substantial, sustained air campaign was designed to establish the conditions for success, isolate the military and security forces in Kosovo, and systematically reduce the ability of President Milosevic to sustain his repressive operations.
Thanks to thorough planning and superb execution by the units assigned to Allied Force, we have suffered only minor losses in the air. Despite our precautions, however, the risk of casualties remains a very real possibility. As youre all aware, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A "RISK FREE" MILITARY OPERATION --- a fact was made clear by the loss of the F-117 over Yugoslavia and the capture of our soldiers along the Macedonian border.
At the same time NATO has exercised extraordinary care to avoid civilian casualties or other unintended consequences from these air operations. But again we can never eliminate all the risks in military operations.
Mr. Chairman, let me conclude by again recognizing the exceptional work being done by our men and women in uniform. Whether our soldiers, sailors, airmen, or marines are in the air, on the flightlines, aboard ships, or in the field, they are working very hard and very selflessly in serving our nation.
Let me express my gratitude to this committee for your support of our service members. While the high-tech weapons in our inventory often make the headlines, it is our men and women in uniform who continue to make the difference. Their excellence is the true power and strength behind Operation Allied Force.
Thank you again for inviting the Secretary and me here today and now we would be happy to answer your questions.