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(Washington Post) U.S. Military Police Embrace Kosovo Role

(This one isn't on Macedonia, but I found it EXTREMELY interesting....)


U.S. Military Police Embrace Kosovo Role
Mission of Stability Is a Good Fit for Peacekeeping Tasks in Volatile

By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 25, 2001; Page A21

STRPCE, Yugoslavia -- When a Serb mob surrounded a United Nations office
in this isolated mountain village last month and began burning U.N.
vehicles, American military police responded to the call for help.
    Pelted by baseball-sized rocks, the MPs hunkered behind plastic riot
shields. When Molotov cocktails began flying at them, they called for
reinforcements to set up a security perimeter.
    But the beleaguered MPs never opened fire -- and so effectively
defused the crisis. If infantry troops had been here instead, "they
would have fired, probably," said a member of the MP platoon, Staff Sgt.
David L. Koch.
    Of the roughly 5,600 U.S. troops on the peacekeeping mission in
Kosovo, the happiest appear to be the 500 military police. They are at
the center of the international effort, patrolling constantly and
interacting with the population.
    The infantry and other combat units, by contrast, tend to hate it.
"The maneuver guys find it very frustrating," said Maj. Tony Carr,
operations officer for the U.S. MP task force here, using Army jargon
for combat units. "They get trash thrown at them and they want to hit
    The central role played by the MPs represents a sharp reversal of
the traditional military hierarchy of prestige, where infantry, armor
and aviation usually rank at the top.
    And of all the support forces, the MPs tend to be resented by other
troops because part of their job is to hand out speeding tickets and
generally police the force. During full-scale war, the MPs are given
backstage work such as patrolling rear areas and guarding prisoners of
    But all that's changed in the peacekeeping missions that have
dominated the U.S. military's attention for the last decade. At Camp
Bondsteel, the main U.S. base here, MPs head out to patrol the exotic
towns and snow-capped mountains of this Balkan province, while tank
crews pull boring guard duty at the dusty main gate.
    Unlike combat troops, schooled in the use of overwhelming force, MPs
are old hands at using the least amount necessary to get the job done, a
key skill here. On the little blue "Rules of Engagement" card that all
U.S. soldiers in Kosovo must carry at all times, the first "General
Rule" listed is "use the minimum force necessary to accomplish your
    At an awards ceremony at the main U.S. base camp here last week, one
of Sgt. Koch's men, Cpl. James Hansen, was awarded an Army commendation
medal for his actions during the Strpce riot, which followed an ethnic
Albanian sniper attack on a bus filled with ethnic Serbs returning from
a shopping trip. The citation accompanying Hansen's medal commended him
for excellence in using "less-than-lethal force."
    Staff Sgt. Jimmy Stogner, a 28-year-old MP from Radcliffe, Ky., said
he is comfortable with a gradual, even reluctant, approach to using
deadly force. Here it has been boiled down to "the five S's," he said:
"Shout, shove, show your weapon, shoot to wound, then shoot at the
'center of mass' " -- that is, aim only at the instigator.
    Infantrymen aren't trained to shout and shove at their adversaries.
They are trained to kill them. So they have to be retrained before
coming on a peacekeeping mission.
    Even then, some don't do it very well. When a battalion of 82nd
Airborne Division paratroopers was in Kosovo last year, a brutal rape
and murder by one soldier sparked an Army investigation that found that
several members of the unit were abusive with ethnic Albanian civilians.
Before the Army sent in another unit from the 82nd Airborne, it put them
through months of training in peacekeeping.
    Last week, one of those new 82nd Airborne troops, Staff Sgt. Vern
Daley, stood outside a yellow and white Serb church along a busy
highway. His mission was to prevent the quiet little church from being
attacked. It was mindlessly dull work, consisting mainly of watching the
passing traffic.
    "You want me to be honest with you?" asked the North Carolina
native. "No, this isn't what I envisioned as a staff sergeant. I thought
I'd be jumping out of planes and leading my section into combat."
    At another 82nd Airborne outpost, in the Zegra Valley, hard along
the border area where ethnic Albanian guerrillas have been operating,
Sgt. Joshua Bailey was passing the time playing gin rummy with two
buddies, their light machine guns sitting at their feet, ready but
unused. "Being in the infantry, we're flexible," he said. "But this is
an MP mission."
    Commanders of the multinational force here increasingly agree that
police skills are what Kosovo needs. One reason is that MPs tend to be
more comfortable with a mission in which the goal isn't victory but
    "You go out on a patrol and nothing happens. Well, that may be
because you are there," Sgt. Maj. Dennis Lafferty, a senior MP, told an
assembled group of his troops last week. "That's mission success."
    Back in the Serb enclave of Strpce, Capt. Christopher Glover,
commander of Smith's MP company, reported that the day's news was that
"a Serbian man's dog was kidnapped by an Albanian, and he says that if
it isn't back by tonight, there will be trouble."
    He didn't sigh in exasperation. As a policeman, he seemed to accept
such squabbling as part of his job.

 2001 The Washington Post Company