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Aviano Celebrates Suspension of Air Strikes

Released: 14 Jun 1999
by Tech. Sgt. Debbie Aragon
31st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy (AFPN) -- With combat air operations suspended over Yugoslavia and Serb forces pulling out of Kosovo, Operation Allied Force warriors here had a reason to celebrate Friday.

And celebrate they did, with a 31st Air Expeditionary Wing party.

Hundreds of people gathered in Hangar 4 to enjoy live music, free food and beverages and hear a few words from Brig. Gen. Dan Leaf, 31st AEW commander, about what they'd achieved in the 79-day air campaign.

"As ("Greedy") in the (510th Fighter Squadron) Buzzards told me the other day, 'What we had here was an old-fashioned fight of good against evil, and good won,'" Leaf said.

He then shared his opinion and beliefs with those listening intently.

"I believe a nation like the United States that fought a civil war so that people couldn't be enslaved based on their race, color, creed or ethnic origin, couldn't sit idly by and watch them (ethnic Albanians) be murdered, raped or driven from their homes for the same reason.

"I believe that our NATO partners that endured the wars of Europe in the early part of this century felt the same way.

"I certainly feel that our newest NATO partners that endured the oppression of communism for decades after the war had to understand what we were doing and that it was good against evil," Leaf said.

"Not for oil, not for politics, not for anything as complex as that, but simply trying to set people free who could not be freed without our help ... and you did it," Leaf said.

There will be a lot of things written, probably a few television shows and perhaps, even a movie or two about the operation, the general explained, mostly by people who weren't here.

"And, most of the time, they won't get it (the true purpose of the operation)," he said. "But you were here," the brigadier general said to those gathered. "You know what you've done for the last three to six months has been to accomplish the impossible every day."

Members of the 31st AEW excelled in very difficult conditions, according to the general, and at times when there were not a lot of thanks and a lot of people didn't believe the air campaign would succeed.

What NATO accomplished during this operation, couldn't have been accomplished without every member of the 31st AEW and the family members who supported them, the general said.

"Each of you did it," Leaf emphasized, "And when you rock your grandchildren on your knee or whatever you do 20 or 30 years from now, and your grandchildren ask you what you did, you'll be able to say you made a difference for mankind."

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David Sarvai

David was assigned to Lt Col "Face" Nichols Computer/Security office in 1997, and has been the maintainer of the website since. He enjoys spending time with his two children, and of course anything plugged into his keyboard/mouse.

Website: www.510fs.org
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