Reservists called to bolster NATO

33,000 U.S.

Most pilots and crews will operate cargo and refueling planes

April 28, 1999|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon announced yesterday that 33,102 reservists will be called to active duty to take part in the Yugoslav bombing campaign and immediately summoned more than 2,000 -- all of them Air Force Guard and Reserve -- to bolster NATO's campaign as it enters its second month.

The initial increment of 2,106 pilots and crew members, along with 47 KC-135 Stratotanker refueling planes, comes from eight states and will be heading to European bases as soon as today, Pentagon officials said.

Maryland units are not among the first wave, and it is uncertain whether they will be part of any future call-up for Kosovo.

The remaining 31,000 reservists are expected to be called in the coming weeks and months as they are needed by U.S. Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark, NATO's supreme allied commander.

Like those called yesterday, most of the future pilots and crews will fly refueling and cargo planes. But there were no details yesterday on which units will be called later.

"These reserves are essential to America's military strength," President Clinton said in a statement. "They are part of the total force we bring to bear whenever our men and women in uniform are called to action."

Yesterday's was the first call-up of reserves in the NATO campaign against Yugoslavia and the largest call-up since the 1991 Persian Gulf war, when a far larger number of reservists -- 240,000 -- were activated. Those called yesterday were from units based in Alabama, Arizona, California, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Defense Department officials said they were uncertain how long the reservists would remain on active duty. The maximum period is nine months. Of the 33,000 reservists, about 25,000 will come from the Air Force Guard and Reserve. The rest will include about 6,000 from the Army and smaller numbers from the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

There are now some 700 U.S. and allied aircraft taking part in the bombing campaign that began March 24. Clark has asked for an additional 300 U.S. aircraft, which includes the 47 refueling planes announced yesterday.

About 1,000 reservists have been serving as volunteers for NATO; the call-up means they will be relieved. "We must go beyond the limits of volunteerism," Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Kudlacz told reporters.

Also yesterday, the Air Force was given authority for "stop loss" -- barring any active-duty members in certain job specialties from leaving the service before the end of the Yugoslav conflict. Air Force Maj. Gen. Susan Pamerleau said the specific jobs and the number of service members to be affected has not been determined. It is the first "stop loss" authority used since the gulf war.

Air attacks `very effective'

Clark also said yesterday that the air campaign has been "very effective" in damaging Yugoslav military forces and the industrial and transportation infrastructure of President Slobodan Milosevic.

"But it has been only a fraction of what is to come," Clark said. "We're winning. Milosevic is losing. And he knows it."

In Surdulica, Yugoslavia, 200 miles south of Belgrade, at least 17 people were killed and 11 wounded when NATO missiles struck the agricultural community yesterday afternoon, local officials said. An Associated Press reporter, taken to the scene by Serb police, saw 50 destroyed homes and 600 damaged.

Rescue workers said the nearest military installation, 500 yards away, was evacuated after an attack April 6. Another military installation is four miles away.

In Moscow, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott concluded talks with Foreign Minister Igor S. Ivanov and Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, Moscow's envoy to the Balkans.

"On behalf of the United States, he laid out very clearly the objectives NATO has set forth in its communiques and the importance we attach to achieving those objectives," said James P. Rubin, the State Department spokesman.

Russia objects to NATO's bombing campaign and to a NATO-led armed peacekeeping force being sent to Kosovo to ensure safe return of refugees.

"The Russians did not indicate any major changes in their position," Rubin said.

Administration officials continued to insist that NATO would have to be at the core -- and management -- of any peacekeeping or international force in Kosovo.

Visits to prisoners

Pentagon and administration officials said they were encouraged that representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross had held a second, longer visit with the three U.S. soldiers who are being held as prisoners of war in Belgrade. The three were examined by a doctor, but the results were not made public.

Despite discouragement from the White House, a delegation of U.S. religious leaders led by the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson said it would travel to Yugoslavia today to meet with the three captive Americans and to try to secure their freedom. The delegation plans to give Bibles to the soldiers, deliver letters and tapes from their families and take back messages from them.

Oil embargo plans

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