Joint Patrol around Ugljevik

Capt. Constantin Spinu
First published in
SFOR Informer#152, November 21, 2002

American and the Russian SFOR troops are conducting weekly joint patrols around Ugljevik in north-eastern Tuzla. This is in order to maintain a safe and secure environment in their Area of Responsibility (AoR) within Multinational Division North.

Ugljevik - A suspended footbridge hanging over the Janja River connects one camp sectioned off into two areas that is home to troops from 320 Russian soldiers and some of the United States of America. From presence patrols, assisting local townspeople with medical care, Civil Military Co-operation (CIMIC) or Harvest operations the Russian Military Contingent (RMC) keeps the mission of maintaining a safe and secure environment alive and well in the north-east region of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

A noble mission
The Russian soldiers are performing two patrol missions every day on two different routes within their AoR. "Our mission is a noble one," said Col. Yury Khrenkov, executive officer, Information Analysis Group. "SFOR soldiers are helping people to understand that peace is the only way to build a future. We are, if you want, like the guarantee that they will find the way to live together in peace and tolerance."

Beside regular patrol missions 4 times a month there are performed joint patrol missions with Coalition Support Team(CST), US Army. CST consists of six people. "Working together with RMC is a very interesting and challenging job," pointed out Capt. Mark Stabile, CST commander. "Our mission here is to act as an operating link between the RMC and HQ MND-N. This requires us to undertake a range of joint activities such as patrolling, weapons training, medical and casualty evacuation to list a few, you learn an awful lot just from working with someone day to day. It is a mutual benefit."

A Russian BTR80 (Armoured Personnel Carrier) is leading and the American HUMVEE follows. The patrol will stop at pre-designated locations. In addition to these halts the patrol leader, Captain Denis Afanasiev, Russian Army, may stop to investigate any location or situation, that attracts his attention: "At the firs side this is not a big deal. Just go, observe and react if necessary. That's it. But behind this is teamwork. And we and Americans understand each other perfectly," explains Afanasiev.

The locals seem to be happy when they meet the joint patrol. They stop by, just to say hello like they are meeting good friends. The soldiers are always having candies and "Tootsie" bars for the children. "The relations with the local community are great. They know that we are here to help," said Sgt. 1st Class Chris Stein, CST. "I remember that one time, when we were on patrol near of village of Celic, we've met a crashed car, with the driver trapped inside. Together with the Russians we've helped the man to escape and gave him first aid. We've saved a life. And the man's family sent us flowers, in sign of gratitude. It was a very touching moment."

Treating people as equals
So Russian and American soldiers are working side by side to perform their tasks. And since their AoR is a very calm one, they are doing for sure a good job. What is the secret? "We are treating the locals as our equals. And they respect us for that," said Khrenkov. "We act without discriminations when perform our tasks. We are not Americans or Russians. We are SFOR soldiers," explained Stabile. Two different explanations but the same meaning: SFOR is carrying out its mission in BiH.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: US, Russia

SFOR at Work

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Photos: Sgt. Diego Ropero Pastor

A Russian BTR80 - Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) is leading and the American HUMVEE follows in a patrolling mission around Ugljevik.

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A Russian APC driver ready for another mission.

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American and Russian soldiers are spending a good time together in BiH. Could you imagine such a picture 20 years ago?

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The Russian APCs are a common sight on the routes in Northern BiH. Sgt. Maj. Dennis Krilov (front), team leader, and Pfc Eduard Merkulov, APC driver enjoy the challenge of their mission.

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Sgt. 1st Class Chris Stein presenting an American weapon to his Russian comrades.

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The Russian soldiers are performing two patrol missions every day on two different routes within their AoR. In addition, four times a month, they perform joint patrol missions with the Coalition Support Team (CST), US Army.

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Taking a short break on the route - a good time for exchanging views and even making new friends.

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Capt. Denis Afanasiev, Coy commander, is leading the joint American - Russian patrols. "This is a team work" he explains.