A Few Good Men In Bosnia

CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey visited with U.S. Army troops in Bosnia and learned that the peacekeepers are defying expectations and predictions.

Soldiers here are engaged in what was known in Vietnam as "winning hearts and minds." They are maintaining a friendly day-to-day presence among local residents, spreading the word about cooperation and tolerance. The difference in Bosnia is that it seems to be working, even among the Serbs.

"If you guys weren't here, we'd still be on the front lines," a Serb told U.S. soldiers.

Even in the town of Srebrenica, scene of one of the war's worst massacres, the troops are seeing signs of change as tensions ease and a semblance of normality returns. As far as the GIs are concerned, the debate about them being here is over.

"I went to visit a mass gravesite," one soldier said. "And if it stops something like that, then it's the most important reason of all why we're here."

Originally, there was a fear that an extended peacekeeping mission would severely affect the soldiers' ability to do the other job they were hired for: fight a war.

When he was sent to Bosnia, Capt. David Sanders was less than thrilled about turning his gunners into international social workers.

"When we first received the mission, as a tank company commander, it's not really the first mission that you want to go to do," said Sanders.

But now Sanders says his men take great pride in the fact that in their area, refugees are returning home and not a single act of violence has occurred.

"I've been asked a lot of times if a peacekeeping mission has impacted your readiness, and I have to say yes it did," Sanders said. "It's built a better unit. Nothing may happen, but look at these guys, they're ready to go."

Ask any soldier or civilian here and they'll tell you that if U.S. troops leave, Bosnia could easily slip back in to chaos and conflict.

As one soldier explained, "It's not a soldier's job to do peacekeeping missions. But only a soldier can do it."