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Bored American Soldiers Need a Break and a Brew
...and after complaining to Stars & Stripes,
help is on the way.

GIs SAY THEYARE SHORT ON PERKS President Clinton Wednesday signed into law a bill giving a tax break to U.S. troops in Bosnia, saying they were entitled to the same benefits given those sent to war zones. Clinton said the tax break was given "in recognition of the sacrifices members of the U.S. Armed Forces are making in and around Bosnia. During Vietnam and the Gulf War, tax relief was granted to individuals serving in combat zones," Clinton said, noting the new law "recognizes the unique hardships and risks members of the U.S. Armed Forces face in non-combat missions like the one in Bosnia." The action also applies to Americans serving in Croatia and Macedonia.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press is reporting that U.S. troops are angry about strict military rules in Bosnia, Croatia and Hungary—and theyíre airing their complaints almost daily in the Germany-based Stars and Stripes newspaper. Soldiers in the Balkans are not allowed to drink alcohol or fly U.S. flags, and most are confined to base. After three months of duty, many are getting fed up. They are writing three times as many letters as normal to the Stars and Stripes, said Bernard Zovistoski, editor of the U.S. militaryís unofficial newspaper, which is traditionally a place for soldiers to air their gripes.

The ban on alcohol consumption—at the front in Bosnia and also at the supply and support bases in Hungary and Croatia—has been the most frequent source of complaint in the letters to the newspaper. The ban applies to American troops, but not to their colleagues from other countries in the NATO-led force. The policy is determined by the operation commander based on local conditions, and U.S. commanders in Bosnia have said they donít want alcohol in Bosnia because of land mines, hostile locals and other factors that could endanger drunk soldiers. The Stars and Stripes reported March 9 that two U.S. sergeants had been given less than honorable discharges for violating the alcohol ban, and several others received administrative punishment, such as reductions in rank, pay cuts or letters of reprimand.

Restricted to Base, Soldiers Highly Annoyed
Another soldier writing from Hungary said the troops are tired of being restricted to their bases. Even soldiers sent from Bosnia for r-and-r in Hungary are confined to base. "I am stationed in Kaposvar, Hungary, and have been here since December. I think itís about time our cell doors should be opened so we can mingle with the population of this city," wrote Sgt. Edward T. Morrison. He said superiors had ordered the troops to remain on base because: "We are trying to make a good impression on these people, and we donít want any incidents." Responded Morrison: "This means we are too immature and irresponsible to go into town, but we are mature enough to die for our country."

In response to all these complaints, and others, U.S. troops in Bosnia should soon get two-week "rest and recreation" leave in Germany after news reports that other NATO forces get more leave than they do, Gen. George Joulwan told senators Tuesday. "We are working that. It is of concern. And we hope to institute that very shortly," Joulwan, who is commander of U.S. forces in Europe as well as NATO supreme commander, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Joulwan commented when asked about reports that other NATO peacekeepers in Bosnia are getting liberal leave but U.S. troops are not. He said the U.S. troops now get only a four-day rest and recreation leave in nearby Hungary.

Additional resources
The U.S. Air Force in Bosnia
The U.S. Army in Bosnia
United States Marine Corps
Navy Public Affairs
Pentagon's BosniaLINK Home Page
American Red Cross in support of U.S. Military

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