Ain't this touching?
mstainsby at SPAMtao.ca
Sat Dec 2 17:48:49 MST 2000
December 2, 2000
Army Orders Peacekeepers to Sessions on Rights
By JAMES DAO
ASHINGTON, Dec. 1 - The Army has ordered that all fighting units based in the United
States undergo specialized training intended to prevent the possibility of human rights
abuses by soldiers sent overseas on peacekeeping missions, Pentagon officials announced
The general in charge of training for all Army units based in the United States said in
a memorandum released today that the lack of rigorous peacekeeping preparation for
nearly 900 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division who were stationed in Kosovo
contributed to "a failure in leadership" in at least one company that was later linked
with using excessive force and, in one case, murder.
The Army inquiry was prompted by the murder of an 11-year-old Albanian girl by Staff
Sgt. Frank J. Ronghi, who pleaded guilty to the murder and sodomy of Merita Shabiu.
Sergeant Ronghi was a member of the cited unit, Company A, which was part of the Third
Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne. He was sentenced to
life in prison by a military court in August.
The memo by Gen. John W. Hendrix, commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command, also
recommended that the Army review the promotions or favorable assignments given to other
soldiers and officers from the 82nd Airborne who were accused of misconduct, or of
condoning misconduct, in Kosovo.
Four officers and five enlisted soldiers from the 82nd Airborne have been punished,
including the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Michael D. Ellerbe. Colonel Ellerbe has
since been selected to attend the Army War College, which is typically a steppingstone
While not directly recommending that those soldiers lose their promotions, General
Hendrix sharply criticized them for the "crimes and abuses" within Company A.
"In their actions, these leaders clearly failed to set the proper moral and ethical
for the unit," General Hendrix wrote.
Though General Hendrix's memorandum does not offer sweeping assessments of America's
peacekeeping operations around the world, it could provide some fodder for a debate,
which came into sharp focus during the presidential campaign, over the proper role for
the military in such missions.
Gov. George W. Bush argued that American troops are overextended and that the nation
should scale back its global peacekeeping efforts. Vice President Al Gore has
articulated a broader vision for using American military might around the world.
The 82nd Airborne was among the first American-based units sent to Kosovo for
peacekeeping purposes, arriving for a six-month tour in September 1999. General Hendrix
said in his report that because of late notification of the deployment, the battalion
underwent an abbreviated training schedule, which did not include what the Army calls a
mission rehearsal exercise.
Such exercises attempt to simulate conditions that troops are likely to encounter: in
this case, dealing not so much with enemy soldiers, but with confrontations with angry
civilians, demonstrators and feuding ethnic groups. Such exercises use mock villages
role-playing, last several days and can be as stressful as combat training, Army
The lack of that rigorous training made it difficult for the Army to weed out weak
leaders or identify bad soldiers in Company A, General Hendrix asserted in his memo.
To ensure that all peacekeeping troops experience the rehearsal exercises in the
General Hendrix said he has ordered all commanders to submit their training plans to
office for review.
General Hendrix's orders apply only to troops based in the United States. Those
represent a majority of service personnel, and will include Army Reserve and National
Guard units. Pentagon officials said no decision has been made on expanding his orders
to units in Europe or Asia.
In his memorandum as well as in recent remarks to reporters, General Hendrix has been
careful to emphasize that he did not think that there were broad, systemic problems
the training of American peacekeeping forces. He has also insisted that he does not
believe that there are deep cultural problems with the 82nd Airborne that might have
contributed to many forms of misconduct in Kosovo.
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