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Fort Bragg Defends Kosovo Peacekeepers Despite Report of Misconduct

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FORT BRAGG — An overseas peacekeeping mission has turned into an investigation into soldier conduct.

The Department of the Army accuses aFort Braggunit of abusing civilians while in Kosovo.

Fort Bragg says it is a case of a few bad apples. An Army veteran says it happens more than you think.

It has been two years since Jonis Lowry retired from the United States Army. Pictures remind him of the good times while serving in Somalia and the Persian Gulf. They also remind him of the bad times.

"There might be one day everyone is glad to see you. Another day, they're saying 'Yankees go home,'" says Lowry.

Going home never came soon enough. Lowry says months and months of combat in a foreign country often put pressure on his squadron. Sometimes the pressure was too much.

"It's that pressure would make you do things you probably ordinarily wouldn't do," he says. Things that violated codes of conduct and Army values.

That is why Lowry is not surprised to hear that some members of the Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment are accused of abusing Kosovo civilians while on the peacekeeping mission.

The investigator's report said the soldiers had been given little training oriented toward peace support. Instead, the training focused mostly on tactics for small infantry units.

Officials in the 82nd Airborne Division say that before the soldiers went to Kosovo, they completed all training that was directed to them by the 82nd and the United States Army Europe command.

Officials said soldiers were well-versed in the rules of engagement for Kosovo. Those rules included self-defense and how to treat civilians.

Major Gary Tallman, a spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division, says the misconduct does not represent the entire Fort Bragg unit.

"The vast majority that served in Task Force 3504 did so honorably. They performed a dangerous mission in a hostile and uncertain environment," he says.

Soldiers in the 82nd Airborne Division were deployed in Kosovo from September 1999 to March of this year.

In February another unit from the 82nd Airborne Division, the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, will go to Kosovo for a six-month rotation. From staff and wire reports