Secure environment in Ugljevik

Sgt. Kelly Whitteaker
First published in
SFOR Informer#149, October 10, 2002

The town of Ugljevik, located north of Tuzla, is home to the Russian Contingent of SFOR soldiers. From presence patrols, assisting local townspeople with medical care to Civil Military Co-operation (CIMIC) these troops keep the mission of maintaining a safe and secure environment alive and well in the north-east region of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

Ugljevik - A suspended footbridge hanging over the Janja River connects one camp sectioned off into two areas that is home to troops from Russia and the United States of America. For the 320 Russian soldiers stationed at the camp, life in BiH is like that of other nations operating in the Balkans. There is first and foremost the mission, and when time permits, there is of course, a time to rest.
Mission first
Standing outside a guard shack is Pvt. Alexey Soloviev. As a sniper and reconnaissance soldier, this tough troop has been in the military for a mere year-and-a-half. Being in BiH offers him the chance to work in the same area as American soldiers and he likes that.
"It is interesting duty," he explains to the interpreter, a Russian army cadet named Sergei. "I like working on this side of the river - I like talking with persons of another culture and working in close co-operation with the Americans."
Aside from guard duty there is also the mission of patrolling. This is done to let the townspeople know that SFOR troops are in the area helping maintain a safe and secure environment. Though on patrol, the troops are well received as the majority of them are Orthodox, the same religion as many of the local townsfolk. At times when a patrol is going through town local Serbian women will make the sign of the cross -- blessing the soldiers, just like the women do in Russian, explained Lt. Col. Nikolay Berzeytis, Press Information Officer, Camp Ugljevik. This gesture is highly regarded by the Russian soldiers as it is something that is done in fellowship, added Berzeytis.
Humanitarian aid
In addition to patrolling there is the issue of medical care. For Russian troops stationed on the camp there is an aid station manned with a general surgeon and combat medics. Whether it is treating nausea or respiratory ailments of troops, the medical staff keep busy as they also help treat local people in Ugljevik when they can.
There is a local hospital in town, The House of Health, but for Dragic Snezana, the hospital chief, "There is not enough space for the treatment of locals."
According to Lt. Col. Andrey Gorbunov, Russian chief of medical services, many local folks show up seeking aid from their camp’s medical facility. The team of medics do what they can but he said there is much left to be done.
Sports competition
Though these troops work hard spending their days patrolling the area and treating the sick and injured of the town, there is still the opportunity to relax. During a late Sunday morning teams of soldiers gathered in the camp’s square, preparing for a friendly competition of battle focused relay events. From disassembling a weapon to carrying an injured man on a litter, the relay brought out cheers and laughter as fellow soldiers competed against one another in a number of military related skills. With the town sitting quietly behind the gates of the camp, troops took a small bit of time out to simply relax and smile. Soon enough the patrolling will resume, medical tasks will ensue and soldiers of the Russian contingent will carry on with their routine of business as usual in Ugljevik.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Russia
SFOR at Work

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Photos: Sgt. Kelly Whitteaker

A Russian troop quickly assembles his weapon during a tactical relay race.

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A combat medic wraps the head of a troop during a tactical relay race designed to instil esprit de corps for the soldiers.

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Putting on protective chemical gear proves to be a challenge during the relay race held in the square at Camp Ugljevik.