Interview with
Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs

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Interviewed by Sgt. Roger Jones, October 25, 1998

Photo: SrA. Linda C. Miller

First published in SFOR Informer #47, October 28, 1998

Sir, at the change of command ceremony, you said "BiH is a much safer place, however, we still have a great deal of work to do." What is your assessment of what needs to be done? What are the priorities?

Well its much safer in a sense that the military aspects of Dayton have been consolidated and are holding fast. We’ve seen improvement in the civilian sector in terms of re-settlement, though it’s far short of what we would like. For instance, there’s been a significant amount of resettlement in the Brcko area down along the Sapna Thumb. We have settlements in the Republika Srpska that are viable. Similarly, you have returns to Sarajevo, returns to other areas to include the MND-SW area but, we should and would have liked to have done a lot more.

In the area of "freedom of movement," we have people crossing the IEBL to attend markets. We have cab drivers from the Republika Srpska coming to Sarajevo to take advantage of the higher cab fares. We have people from the Bosniac side of Sarajevo going to shop in the Republika Srpska, because it’s a bit cheaper. That’s exactly what we want to do, but the road ahead involves continued progress in the area of "freedom of movement," continuing to foster return of people to their homes, and the support of other aspects of Dayton. Along the lines of the military sphere, we have to continue to consolidate the military professionalisation that needs to occur, in order to further democratic development.

What has impressed you the most about SFOR’s mission success thus far?

The contribution of ingenuity, discipline and the energy that our soldiers have made, to include all 40 countries, to fostering progress both in the military area and in the support of civilian implementation.

In your opinion, what is the recipe for continued SFOR success?

Several things have to be continued to foster the Dayton implementation: One is the continued, unified focus of the international community. The willingness of people who live here to take charge of their lives and institutions.The growth of multi-ethnic institutions and the eventual transition of authorities to civilian control, both in the international community and in the country of Bosnia and Hercegovina itself.

How does being the Commander of the SFOR differ from your previous assignments?

Well this is obviously my first command at this level. In the NATO Headquarters you have a much wider variety of officers and interests. So, I would say at this level, I’m more involved in the political military aspects of being a soldier rather than the tactical ones. The problems involving the political military aspects of this job tend to be more abstract and less tactical.

Have you any particular concerns for your SFOR troops and civilian personnel?

No particular concerns, I want them to do their job, be satisfied they have made a major contribution for their nation and to this country. And, I want them to return home satisfied in that contribution.

What were your expectations, prior to arriving in Theatre? Have they changed?

I know this is a tough mission. The problems here are difficult, especially because of the nature of the war. So, I knew that this was going to be a challenging job and that’s exactly what it has been.

What advice would you offer your SFOR personnel?

They’ve all been trained magnificently for the mission. They know what they have to do. I would say play to your strength—that is, your discipline and military training. Keep your eyes open, and be aware of your environment. Lastly, follow your gut and be safe.

What does it mean to you, personally, to have become SFOR Commander?

Well, I’m returning here for a second time. It’s very rare that you get to come back in an operational environment at the next higher level and work on the same set of problems and on the same turf. To me, that’s exciting. In addition, it is a great challenge to have this kind of responsibility and it’s very exciting to be here with all of these great soldiers and civilians who are trying to do this tremendous mission, not only for their country but for the people of Bosnia and Hercegovina.

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