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STATE OF NEBRASKA
John A. Gale
Secretary of State
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Shelley Harrold
Thursday, June 12, 2003 402-471-1572

Secretary of State Visits Nebraska Troops

Lincoln, NE -- Secretary of State John Gale, formerly of North Platte, has just returned as part of a contingent invited by General Lempke, Adjutant General of the Nebraska National Guard, to fly to Tuzla, Bosnia, to visit the 400 Nebraska Guard troops stationed at Camps McGovern and Morgan as part of Task Force Eagle.  The Nebraska troops are known as Task Force Husker.

Gale shared the trip with Tom Henning of Kearney, among some 20 civilians. Henning owns and operates Cash-Wa Distributing, which has a branch office in Gale’s former hometown of North Platte. Gale commented "Tom Henning was a great ambassador for Nebraska on this trip. He made contact with the Kearney troops, but generated goodwill with all of the troops. I enjoyed being on the trip with him."

Gale was also pleasantly surprised to connect with Sergeant First Class Steven Thomlison, formerly of Kearney, who is a Chaplains Assistant for Task Force Husker. Steve’s mother, Shirley, still resides in Kearney.

Gale said that he was surprised to learn that there were only 1,500 Americans now stationed in Bosnia, and that some 400 of them were from Nebraska.  Gale added, "Originally, NATO and the UN had 60,000 troops in Bosnia, and now that has been reduced to 12,000.  While we were there, Russia was just pulling out her troops stationed adjacent to the Nebraskans. Our troops will now pick up that area as well."

Gale, the only Third District constitutional officer, said "Those of us on the trip were very proud of the Nebraska troops. They were highly motivated, very professional, well-trained, and had great leadership. The Third District was well represented in Task Force Husker, with some 45 alone from Hastings, Kearney, and Grand Island."

Gale concluded, "All Nebraskans should be proud of their National Guard troops stationed in Bosnia.  It remains high risk, but improving almost daily.  The local population likes and trusts the Americans, and are cooperating with a Weapons Harvest program to gather arms. The hatreds fueled by the cruelties of the war, and the civilian losses, remain but at least the governments are working, and the efforts to rebuild homes and start businesses are succeeding.  It is very hopeful, but only due to the military presence to promote stability there."

According to Gale, Bosnia-Herzegovina is an area about two-thirds the size of Nebraska with some 4 million people today.   Some 500,000 died in the vicious fighting between Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia. It is an area with multiple religions, multiple languages, and multiple allegiances tracing back to World War II.

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