Soldiers from Stabilization Force 15, along with commanders past and present of Task Force Eagle and other Multinational Task Forces throughout SFOR, gathered to bring a close to another rotation in Bosnia. Most rotations end with a transfer of authority ceremony, but not this one.
Task Force Eagle, the U.S.-led element of SFOR in Bosnia-Herzegovina, came to an end during a disestablishment ceremony here Nov. 24.
"Just as the initial Implementation Force evolved into the Stabilization Force, this peacekeeping mission istransitioning to the European Union Force," said Brig. Gen. T.J. Wright, the final commander of Task Force Eagle. "The European Force is well built on the foundation that has been forged for many years of progressive accomplishments of SFOR."
"This has been the U.S. Army portion of America's and NATO's Multinational Division and now Multinational Task Force North, which have provided a safe and secure environment in a large part of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the past nine years," said Gen. B.B. Bell, commander, U.S. Army Europe. Bell served as the chief of staff for USAREUR Forward when Task Force Eagle took over the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia Dec. 20, 1995.
"This ceremony officially marks mission complete and mission accomplished for this great Task Force Eagle which has honorably served as part of a NATO coalition of over 40 nations dedicated to ensuring that the people of this nation can move ahead from a war-torn past to a peaceful.
"Since the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords ... nearly 100,000 United States soldiers have served to ensure a safe and secure environment for Bosnia and Herzegovina and deter a return to the hostilities that killed 200,000 people," Wright said. "The extraordinary lengths our predecessors have gone to, in order to set the conditions for a lasting peace, humble us."
The final casing of the TF Eagle colors is part of the completion of the SFOR mission and the inauguration of the European Union Force, which occured in a separate ceremony in Sarajevo Dec. 2. The EUFOR, a coalition involving 33 countries, 11 of which are non-EU members, will reinforce the EU's political engagement, its assistance programs and its ongoing police and monitoring missions, to help Bosnia continue to progress toward European integration.
"So now, here we are nine years later, November 2004, the nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina stands as an emerging member of the community of peaceful nations in Europe," Bell said. "It has free elections. It has a free media. It is able to secure its own borders and provide police to enforce the laws."
Helping the citizens of this country is a source of pride for the Task Force Eagle soldiers, which was made up of active and reserve components.
"Over the course of our nine months here, it has been my honor to assist the Bosnian people as they work for the common goal of a unified country with firm ties to the rest of Europe and international organizations," Wright said. "Since the end of the conflict that brought much sorrow, many steps have been taken to establish a peaceful, stable and democratic government.
"It has been an honor for the 38th Infantry Division to lead Task Force Eagle as the final United States contingent of the Stabilization Force."