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Flexing the reserves

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Sgt Yannick Baylet

First published in SFOR Informer #46, October 7, 1998

Gacko - On Sunday September 27, an exercise was undertaken by 3 platoon of the Norwegian Telemark Coy, led by 1Lt. Stoa, along with the 227 and 229 U.S. Army Aviation Squadrons giving transport and support.

According to the scenario, a nationalist group was conducting a demonstration on a bridge near Gacko, s981030l.jpg (12503 bytes)threatening the return and the freedom of movement principles guaranteed by the Dayton Peace Agreement.

The Spanish Brigade, which is responsible for the area in which the scenario unfolded, was already busy maintaining security in other areas and requested reserve support. The Telemark was quickly deployed.

As part of the SFOR Operational Reserve Force, the Telemark Coy can be deployed anywhere in Theatre, as needed.

"It is the first real exercise with this platoon," said Stoa. "It is a great opportunity. We learnt to co-ordinate with helicopters, which is very rare in Norway, because we don't have a lot of them available," he added.

s981030j.jpg (14393 bytes)The plan of the exercise included a departure of the platoon from Ilidza in SISU APCs, to link up with five Blackhawks, and a four-strong Apache squadron flying in from Tuzla. During a brief meeting at Sarajevo airport, the Norwegians and the Americans set up their operating procedure and code names for fire support before mounting the Blackhawks for transportation to the exercise site, near Gacko, east to south-east of Mostar.

s981030k.jpg (14251 bytes)Flying fast and hard between mountains and valleys the Blackhawks landed on the hill tops that surround the bridge area to allow the infantry to dismount, while the Apaches remained airborne, to secure the area from potential threats. The Norwegian troops took position and began a recce from the top of the hills, before moving down towards the bridge.

As explained by Maj. Richard Reimers, of the U.S. 2-227 Army Aviation Squadron, the exercise was a good example of how troops and combat helicopters, such as Apaches and Blackhawks, can complement each other in sensitive situations.

s981030g.jpg (14161 bytes)When the soldiers of the platoon faced the people blocking the bridge (actually Norwegian soldiers of the first and second platoons), they advised them to clear the road of barricades and also warned notified them they would be removed if they did not comply. After repeated attempts at negotiation, that is exactly what happened.

After removing the people blocking the bridge and breaking down the barricades, the platoon stood its ground to ensure that no further attempts were made to threaten the newly regained freedom of movement.

The Blackhawks, with engines still running, remained a respectable distance from the bridge, on the hill tops. They then flew down road to pick up the Norwegian soldiers from the road, repeating the load/unload procedures and taking the entire reserve force back to Sarajevo at the end of a successful mission.

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