Cohen updates graduates on status of war

Defense secretary says airstrikes will end on NATO's terms

May 27, 1999|By Neal Thompson | Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen told the newest additions to the U.S. military, 1999's Naval Academy graduates, that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is losing the conflict with NATO forces and that there are no plans to cease the bombing.

"Until he agrees to meet NATO's demands by pulling his forces out of Kosovo, allowing refugees to return to their homes, and agreeing to an international peacekeeping with NATO at its core and the restoration of autonomy, Milosevic will continue to witness the decimation of his instruments of power," Cohen said yesterday in his address to the graduates.

Cohen's words were aimed at 868 officers, many of whom could soon be assisting naval colleagues as players in NATO's 2-month-old barrage of airstrikes and ship-fired long-range missiles.

"Your admission to the academy set you apart as something special. As gifted, serious-minded young men and women who were prepared to give up a life of ease for one devoted to honor, allegiance and fidelity," he said.

They will be entrusted with the responsibility of leading others, of being ambassadors of U.S. values, and operating multimillion-dollar ships and warplanes. "You will have more power at age 22 than most will have in a lifetime," Cohen said.

Of this year's graduates, 709 are headed into the Navy, 146 are bound for the Marine Corps and two will serve in the Air Force. One graduate will not be commissioned. The class consisted of 736 men and 132 women, five of whom ranked among the top 10 students in the class.

Ten of this year's graduates were foreign exchange students, who will serve in the navies of their homelands, including Barbados, Romania, Thailand, El Salvador and Lebanon.

Navy Secretary Richard Danzig told the class that, among the 2 million college students graduating this month, "You are different, because you are entrusted with our nation's defense."

The crisis in Kosovo gave extra weight to such words and to the oath midshipmen recited with right hands raised, promising to defend the United States "against all enemies."

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