Leadership: August 9, 2001

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The U.S. Army is determined to make the deployment of peacekeepers to Kosovo and Bosnia work. This requires that the troops feel good about serving, without their families, in a potentially dangerous place. The solution is money, goodies and favorable comparison to much less pleasant places. Before the Balkans came along, the most common "unaccompanied (no family)" tour of duty was in South Korea. It still is, with some 37,000 soldiers serving 13 months at a time there. Despite the growing prosperity in South Korea, little money has been spent on troop housing there over the last half century. Many soldiers live in Quonset (sheet metal) huts. Many of these still lack central heating, and with feeble electrical hookups, cannot support much air conditioning either. The Balkans are quite different, with hundreds of millions of dollars spent on modern living and entertainment facilities for the troops. Congress has also changed the compensation rules for troops in the Balkans, giving each soldier an extra $237 a month. For lower ranking troops, this is equal to a 20-30 percent pay increase. Moreover, units around the world are stripped of their best officers and NCOs to upgrade the leadership in the Balkans. Troops there have to deal with volatile civilian populations, and better leadership is needed to avoid embarrassing incidents. In some ways, Korea is worse still, because troops are allowed to bring their families if they pay for transportation and housing themselves. Housing available around, often remote, military bases is primitive by U.S. standards. No families are allowed in the Balkans, and tours of duty are shorter. So far, these tactics have worked, at least in the Balkans. But the same troops may find themselves in Korea a year after they leave the Balkans. When that happens, comparisons are made and morale plummets. 

 


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