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Operation Able Sentry

Task Force Able Sentry [TFAS], a US Army force attached to the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP), was established 12 July 1993 to monitor and report activity along the Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)/Serbia border area which could undermine confidence and stability or threaten the territory of FYROM. UNPREDEP was established as a peacekeeping operation under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, and UNPREDEP operations in FYROM are conducted under UN auspices. The headquarters of the US task force, Camp Able Sentry, is located near the FYROM capital of Skopje. There are 27 countries participating in UNPREDEP with the majority of troops coming from the United States, Finland, Indonesia, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden.

The United Nations Protection Force [UNPROFOR] was the largest, most expensive and most complex peace operation in the history of the United Nations. The Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia is the most southern of the six former republics of Yugoslavia. It shares borders with Albania, Kosovo, Greece, the Former Republic of Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. The FYROM declared its independence in late 1991. When ethnic armed conflict broke out in the other five former Yugoslav states, FYROM President Gligorov and the United Nations became concerned that spillover fighting from warring factions to the North would move into the FYROM. On 11 November 1992, the President of Macedonia conveyed to the Secretary-General a request for the deployment of United Nations observers in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in view of his concern about the possible impact on it of fighting elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia.

On 9 December, the Secretary-General submitted to the Council a report in which he recommended an expansion of the mandate and strength of UNPROFOR to establish a United Nations presence on Macedonia's borders with Albania and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro). He indicated that the Force's mandate would be essentially preventive, to monitor and report any developments in the border areas which could undermine confidence and stability in Macedonia and threaten its territory. The Secretary-General recommended that the enlargement of UNPROFOR comprise an estimated battalion of up to 700 all ranks, 35 military observers, 26 civilian police monitors, 10 civil affairs staff, 45 administrative staff and local interpreters. This contingent would operate under UNPROFOR's "Macedonia Command" with headquarters in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. The Security Council, by its resolution 795 (1992) of 11 December, approved the Secretary-General's report and authorized the establishment of UNPROFOR's presence in Macedonia.

In February 1993, the UN deployed a Nordic Battalion, consisting of Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian troops. In March 1993, the UN Preventive Deployment Command became operation with a force of approximately 700 soldiers on the FYROM's northern and northwestern border stretching from Bulgaria to Albania. In May 1993, the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the US articulated support for the UNPREDEP by considering the deployment of US military forces to the FYROM.

On 31 March 1995, the Security Council decided to restructure UNPROFOR, replacing it with three separate but interlinked peacekeeping operations. Security Council Resolution 983 of 31 March 1995 changed the name of UNPROFOR within the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP).

UNPREDEP is divided into two sectors, the Nordic Battalion, primarily bordering Albania and Kosovo, and the US Battalion, primarily bordering the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. United States Reserve, National Guard and active-duty servicemembers as well as Department of Defense civilians have participated in this United Nations peacekeeping effort.

Initial TFAS operations began 16 July 1993. A 30-day orientation and training period began that taught TFAS soldiers UN Peacekeeping Operation procedures. In August 1993 TFAS moved forward and occupied Observation Points 55 and 56 on the FRY-FYROM border and began patrolling on 21 August 1993. During the second rotation of soldiers to the TFAS mission, the US Secretary of Defense approved the deployment of an additional tailored reinforced company with necessary command elements (approximately 200 personnel) to assume sector responsibilities for departing Nordic Units.

In January 1997, Task Force 2-37 Armor received a very short notice alert to deploy to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in support of the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force. Since assuming the mission in March of 1997, the soldiers of the Iron Duke Task Force conducted operations in response to the implosion in Albania and tense confrontations with Serb patrols in March 1997, including an increasing number of patrols in July, culminating in the the mission to their replacements in late August and September 1997.

Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen authorized the redeployment of some of the U.S. forces supporting the U.N.'s task force in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia beginning in early October 1997. These forces, along with personnel from 26 other countries, are part of the U.N.'s preventative deployment force (UNPREDEP) committed to the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The UNPREDEP has played a significant role in contributing to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1110 and a subsequent U.N. secretary general report directed a phased drawdown in UNPREDEP force levels from 1,050 personnel to 750, during a two-month period beginning in early October. The U.S. portion of this drawdown is a reduction of 150 personnel.

TFAS was a battalion with a Headquarters and Headquarters Company, up to four line companies, scouts, mortars, engineers, aviators and appropriate support elements. Battalions are deployed to the FYROM for 179-day rotations. The battalion's mission is to monitor and report activity on the FYROM/FRY border. To accomplish this, there are forward operations in the vicinity of the border. Each observation post is manned around the clock. Mounted, dismounted and/or community patrols are conducted daily from each OP. TFAS has also established company command posts which allow for forward command and control of operations. The main base camp itself, Camp Able Sentry, is located adjacent to the airport near Petrovec.

The ARNG provided elements of a Combat Support Company consisting of 65 soldiers from Missouri, Colorado and Illinois in support of Task Force Able Sentry in Macedonia. The TFAS Mission is to ensure that the unrest in the former Yugoslavia did not spill over the border to the south, into Macedonia. These soldiers provided Engineer, Military Police and Aviation support for base camp operations at Camp Able Sentry. Following a successful six month rotation, the unit redeployed in February 1998. The ARNG committed to support future TFAS rotations with another Combat Support Company, an Infantry Company or Infantry Battalion.

Perhaps the most publicly visible aspect of Able Sentry was the legal and political controvery surrounding Specialist Michael New, who refused to don the insignia of the United Nations when he was ordered to deploy as part of the operation. The Army court martialled the volunteer-soldier for disobeying an order.

TFAS was the U.S. Army's task force attached to the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) in the Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). UNPREDEP was originally established in July 1993, to monitor and report activity along the FYROM-Serbia border area that could undermine confidence and stability in the region or threaten the territory of FYROM.

On 25 February 1999, the United Nations Security Council voted not to extend the mandate for the UNPREDEP. The mission was terminated 28 February 1999. On 1 March 1999 the U.N. renamed UNPREDEP as U.N. Skopje, and TFAS began repatriating. Operational control of TFAS began to transition from U.N. to U.S. control for the drawdown phase of the mission. In addition, operational control of TFAS was transferred to NATO for synchronization and coordination of force protection measures only.

Task Force Sabre

Task Force Sabre, originally known as Task Force Able Sentry (TFAS), consisted of approximately 620 soldiers and a U.S. helicopter detachment located at Camp Able Sentry.

The Secretary of Defense modified the mission of TFAS, renamed TF Sabre by the 1st Infantry Division personnel, on 28 March 1999. TF Sabre was tasked to continue maintaining, preserving, and protecting U.S. infrastructure in FYROM at Camp Able Sentry, to use as a forward staging and logistics area for the U.S. contribution to a NATO-led implementation force in Kosovo.

On 22 April 1999 operational control of TF Sabre transferred to NATO. Subsequently, TF Sabre has become TF Falcon Rear. Their mission is to receive, stage and onward move U.S. forces to support peacekeeping operations in Kosovo. Camp Able Sentry serves as a logistics staging area to provide continuous sustainment and support to U.S. forces in Kosovo.

In July 2001 Civil conflict in Macedonia prompted the Pentagon to move all nonessential military and civilian personnel from Camp Able Sentry in Macedonia to Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo. The soldiers, contractors and civilians who have left include those involved with morale, welfare and recreation jobs, transportation management, and other nonessential personnel, not all are [in] uniforms. Contractors from the company Brown & Root, who support operations at Able Sentry, are among those who are leaving the post. Once the evacuation is complete, the only individuals left at Able Sentry will be a core group, including about 500 U.S. soldiers, whose jobs involve force protection, key logisticians, and a team that supports the unmanned aerial-reconnaissance vehicles used to monitor the region. The UAVs deploy from the Skopje airport, which is within walking distance of Camp Able Sentry.

Web Sites

Documents

  • U.S. Forces Monitor Troubled Border By Linda D. Kozaryn American Forces Press Service SKOPJE, FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA -- More than a thousand multinational troops, including about 350 Americans, now man observation posts along this nation's borders with Bosnia -- where peace prevails -- and Kosovo, where violence reigns.

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