Task Force Hawk -- Mud Soldier Laments Being Stuck in Albanian Muck

June 2, 1999

Comment: #280


[1] By a Warrior, "An Army troop sounds off about the deployment to Albania, the leadership, and certain rules of the road in a combat zone,"  David Hackworth's Defending America Newsletter, June 2, 1999. Attached

[2] Tim Butcher, "Mountains ground US Apaches," Telegraph (UK), ISSUE 1457, May 22 May 1999

Since the mid-1970s, the Army has touted the Apache helicopter as a veritable death ray to any enemy who had the unfortunate luck to be near it. With great fanfare, the US deployed a force of 24 Apaches to Albania in April -- the infamous Task Force Hawk would quickly bring the brutish Serb to heel.

In the luxury of Versailles on the Potomac, far from the troops, where courtiers make Armed Forces Day posters that celebrate weapons and ignore the sacrifices of warriors [see Comment #273], Task Force Hawk is now a standing joke. The deployment of 24 Apaches and its protective force (over 5000 men) took a month and required 200 C-17 sorties. TF Hawk is commanded by a 3-Star General (Washington Post, 31 May, p. 1), but Tim Butcher reports in Attachment #2 that this force may never even be used in Kosovo, because the Apache helicopter can not cope with the region's mountains.

Lost in the noisy hilarity of the beltway is the price paid by the lowly grunts -- pumped up to go to war, the mud soldiers now have to endure the courtiers' mistakes -- and the taxpayers will have to foot the bill. Read Attachment #1, a real soldier assigned to TF Hawk pours a dose of sunlight on reality ... and it is a heartbreaking sight indeed.

No worries -- the military-technical revolution is scheduled to replace the heart with a more capable digital data bus in the new Five Year Plan.

Chuck Spinney

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]


An Army troop sounds off about the deployment to Albania, the leadership, and certain rules of the road in a combat zone.

By A Warrior

David Hackworth's Defending America Newsletter, June 2, 1999

I'm a troop assigned to Task Force Hawk in Albania. We have been here for 6 weeks and I thought you might like an update on what is actually going on here. I'm sure you haven't been invited to visit by the U.S. Army and it would break your heart if you did come here.

When we first arrived here, we were directed to go to the other side of the airport where Task Force Hawk was marshaling. Without any further guidance or escort our chalk, with all the vehicles, followed the muddy path and immediately got stuck in the mud like all vehicles before us. The madness began.

My CO and I sat for a few minutes trying to figure out what our next move should be. The CO kinda laughed and said, "I guess I'll go see if I can find some help." You would have been proud of your infantry brethren. There was one lone APC pulling wrecker duty for Task Force Hawk because no one else could move.

A few days later, after a lot of screaming and many attempts, they began to build a road. The screaming came from an officer we have affectionately dubbed, "Colonel Screech." Although he was supposed to be the OIC of the deployment, and he was and still is clueless.

The conditions here were ridiculous. We were in mud up to our knees and we were expected to prepare to conduct military operations. This was going on all the while the Air Force had "Brown and Root" building them a lovely LSA, complete with hot showers, dining facility and PX. Imagine that, the Air Force taking care of their people first. What a concept!

After a few days of trudging and living in the mud and using Porta Potties that were only being cleaned every three days because the road was not yet done, things started to improve. We were actually able to lay down a bunch of rock and gravel so that we had a nice, short path from our work area to the Porta Potties. The only problem with this is that the path went right by the CG and ADC's private sleeper vans and it was deemed after 2 weeks that this was a security risk. Some people think that they actually didn't want the soldiers to see the private porches being built by "Brown and Root" before any tents were given wooden floors. The aviation general and corps sergeant major did not share these reservations, they went ahead and had their porches built in front of all the soldiers, some whom had still not received any wooden floors.

Okay, we know that rank has its privileges and Task Force Hawk went one more step to prove it. We were told that we are all professionals and we will render the proper respect to all officers. We have been saluting officers in a declared combat zone for almost a month now. To further convince us that we are in a combat zone, we were instructed to unload our weapons because one young soldier had an accidental discharge with his M-16. So now we have our basic load that we are not allowed to load. Needless to say, morale here is if not at rock bottom, it is getting worse every day. The fact that these fine soldiers are still conducting themselves professionally is a tribute to the discipline of the average V Corps soldier.

The worst day by far was the night we lost our two Apache pilots. I don't need to tell you the horrible and empty feeling you have when you lose one of your brothers. But we kept moving forward because we believe our cause is just and we knew that Task Force Hawk was going to be able to turn the tide for Operation Allied Force. That was until President Clinton came out and said that the A-10s would be able to do what the Apaches were sent to do. No more wind in these sails.

So what do we do to keep sharp. We fly mission rehearsal exercises (MREs) and burn lots of fuel and flight time. By the way, a new name has been developed for the MREs, Practical Exercises Not Involving Shooting (PENIS), which are preceded by Low Intensity Mission Planning (LIMP), which are accompanied by the ever-present Power Point Slides. Power Point Rangers ride again.

So what is the new plan developed by Task Force Hawk to improve morale and increase combat readiness? We are going to have a Task Force Hawk Fun Run on the 1st of June and are going to be developing training schedules. That should fix everything!

We were sent here to go kill tanks. We know that we can do the job! The price tag for Task Force Hawk is already 700 million dollars. If we do not get into the fight soon, this will be the most expensive and worse BCTP I have ever been on in my 10 years in the Army.