Operation Joint Endeavor
Beginning in December 1995, US and allied nations deployed peacekeeping forces to Bosnia in support of Operation Joint Endeavor. Task Force Eagle, comprised of 20,000 American soldiers, was the US component of NATO's Implementation Force (IFOR) and was tasked with implementing the military elements of the Dayton Peace Accords in support of Operation Joint Endeavor. Task Force Eagle was the lead element for NATO's Multinational Division (North) or MND(N). Operation Joint Endeavor marked the first commitment of forces in NATO's history, as well as the first time since World War II that American and Russian soldiers had shared a common mission. Thousands of people were alive in Bosnia because of these soldiers' service. On 20 December 1996, the IFOR mandate ended and NATO established a new operation, Operation Joint Guard, along with a new Stabilisation Force (SFOR) to replace IFOR. Task Force Eagle remained the title for the US contingent supporting this new operation.
Multinational Division (North) and Task Force Eagle's history began in 1995 following the NATO-imposed cease-fire, halting the destructive 4-year Balkan conflict. After the General Framework Agreement for Peace was signed on 14 December 1995, the United States 1st Armored Division, as part of NATO's Allied Command Europe, Rapid Reaction Corps, was ordered to Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of Operation Joint Endeavor. There it formed the nucleus of Task Force Eagle and assumed control of its area of responsibility on 20 December 1995. After the historic bridging of the Sava river on 31 December 1995, the Old Ironsides Division, with supporting Forces from the V Corps, was joined by Nordic-Polish, Turkish, and Russian Brigades, with contingents from 12 nations. These nations included Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Poland, Denmark, Lithuania, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Russia, Turkey, and the United States.
Task Force Eagle, one of the most powerful formations ever fielded, enforced the cease fire, supervised the marking of boundaries and the zone of separation between the former warring factions, enforced the withdrawal of the combatants to their barracks and the movement of heavy weapons to designated storage sites. Task Force Eagle also supported the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's efforts to administer the country's first ever, democratic national elections.
In the first 3 months of Operation Joint Endeavor, US Air Force mobility forces flew 3,000 missions, carried over 15,600 troops and delivered more than 30,100 short tons of cargo. These statistics reflected the presence of the C-17, which was systematically employed in a major contingency for the first time during the operation. The limited airfield at Tuzla, was the major port of debarkation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. During the first critical month of operations, the C-17 flew slightly more than 20 percent of the missions into, Tuzla but delivered over 50 percent of the cargo.
On 10 November 1996, the 1st Armored Division transferred authority for command and control of MND(N) and Task Force Eagle to the 1st Infantry Division. The 1st Infantry Division deployed as a covering force to allow the safe return of the 1st Armored Division units to their homes in Germany. Shortly thereafter, demonstrations in the villages of Celic and Gajevi tested the resolve and ability of the newly arrived Big Red One. On 12 November 1996, an armed altercation between the former warring factions occurred, which could have hindered the fragile peace process. The soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division skillfully intervened and quickly brought the very intense situation under control. Upon completion of the covering force mission, the 1st Infantry Division continued to ensure all military aspects of the Dayton Peace Accord were accomplished firmly and fairly.
During Operation Joint Endeavor, deployed intelligence personnel provided aircrews and staffs at several locations with critical threat information and airfield data. Taking advantage of the Combat Intelligence System (CIS) capabilities and an emerging global connectivity to military networks and databases, intelligence personnel provided the best and most timely support ever to air mobility forces. This improvement was particularly evident during the Mission Report (MISREP) process, when intelligence analysts used CIS to provide MISREP data very quickly to aircrews and staffs, ensuring the people in need of this intelligence received it while the data was still useful.
The European Command's ARG/MEU(SOC) was assigned as theater reserve for NATO forces, while Naval Mobile Construction Battalions 133 and 40 constructed base camps for implementation force personnel. In addition, from June to October 1996 a Marine Corps unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) squadron, VMU-1, supported the operation with Pioneer UAV imagery both to US and multinational units. VMU-1 was subsequently replaced by VMU-2, which continued to provide similar support.
The US Army Intelligence and Security Command's (INSCOM) Military Intelligence Battalion (Low Intensity) was originally notified of participation in Operation Joint Endeavor in the fall of 1995. The Airborne Reconnaissance - Low (ARL) system, however, was actually deployed for use in the US European Command theater from 28 January 1996 through 19 April 1996, with approximately 60 personnel, including 12 contracted civilian aircraft maintenance personnel from Rayethon, AVTAIL, and California Microwave Industries. During that time, the unit conducted 39 missions totaling 224.1 flight hours of imagery over Bosnia. After considerable coordination, US Southern Command finally released the ARL for a second deployment, this time from 8 August 1996 through 3 October 1996. On the second deployment, the unit conducted 33 missions totaling 197.1 flight hours of imagery over Bosnia. During the second deployment, there were 4 3-man Aerial Reconnaissance Support Teams deployed, one each in the the British (southwest) sector; the US (northern) sector in Tuzla; the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) in Sarajevo; and the French sector in Mostar. The Battalion also flew over 700 flight hours in support of the imagery efforts using RC-12 aircraft from C Company. In addition to the manned aircraft, the Battalion also deployed with the RQ-1 Predator UAV for the period 7 March 1996 through 2 September 1996. To operate the UAV, the unit formed a company as a detachment, called Detachment 3. It was a joint unit with personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Marine Corps. Responsibility for the system transferred to the US Air Force's 11th Reconnaissance Squadron on 2 September 1996.