Jordanians on exercise
by Capt. Halvor Molland
First published in SFOR Informer #24, November 26, 1997
Sarajevo - While three men are moving slowly around the corner, two others are fast roping down the wall of an old battle-scarred hotel on the outskirts of Sarajevo. They enter the building from two different points at exactly the same time, and the shooting starts. The obstructions are eliminated, the building secured and the task accomplished.
The Jordanian soldiers are exercise their skills for work in urban areas, a task that is a part of their mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). This means they can be put into operations where they will not get any indirect fire support. As they move into the urban area, they are on their own until they have cleared the area. This task demands rehearsing, so that each man knows exactly what to do when the operation is ongoing. There can be no hesitation.
"We use this old hotel quite often in our exercises," said Jordanian Contingent Commander, Capt. Mohammed Al-Shraah pointing at the remains of a once splendid hotel almost completely destroyed during the siege of Sarajevo. "We normally have two exercises per week. One of them is on the ranges with the French unit, which the Jordanian contingency is a part of," On a normal day the unit patrols the area of Sarajevo, either alone or together with troops from the French contingent.
Al-Shraah and his men are the fourth Jordanian Contingent in Sarajevo. They are located at Sarajevo Airport, next to the French Contingent. The first Jordanian Contingent came to BiH in February 1996 and consisted of 50 men. Jordan then had four battalions in Croatia and Slovenia.
Today, the number of Jordanians in Sarajevo has been reduced to one small but highly-trained unit. There is also a platoon left in Zagreb guarding Pleso Airport until they finish their tour at the end of November, but it is uncertain yet whether the unit will be replaced.
For the Jordanians being in BiH is quite a different experience. The terrain in Bosnia is quite different to the hot desert areas of Jordan. But peace-support operations are not a new thing for these proud soldiers from the Middle-East. Jordan has participated in several other missions, such as Angola, Cambodia, Georgia and Haiti. In BiH they are also represented by 250 members of IPTF.
"We are enjoying our stay in Bosnia very much. We use our spare time to do trips and reconnaissance in areas where we may have to work in, in case the situation here in Bosnia makes it necessary. But I really hope we will have a peaceful and quiet time here," said Al-Shraah.
"This is the first time I am away from Jordan. It is a very good experience, both for myself and my country, to learn multinational co-operation," said Corporal Tofik Al Hamayda. "Ill be able to use what I learn here to make it better back in Jordan. That is partly why I like my job so much. The French and the Americans I work with are also very friendly and skilful." He and the other Jordanians all say they are taking pictures of Sarajevo to show their families in Jordan what life is like here.
"My family is happy for me, being able to be a part of the Stabilising Force in Bosnia and participate in the peace keeping process," said Al Hamayda. He and the other Jordanians will not see their families until they return to Jordan after the 6-month tour ends in March.