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
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.
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.
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
camps medical facility. The team of medics do what they
can but he said there is much left to be done.
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 camps 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.
Nations of SFOR: Russia
SFOR at Work