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Spanish CIMIC faces challenge

By Sgt. Michael Maddox
First published in
SFOR Informer #100, November 8, 2000

Stolac - With more than 180 refugee resettlements in the Spanish Area of Responsibility, there's a lot of work to be done by the CIMIC office. But the five-member team is ready for whatever they can to help returnees lives return to normal as quickly as possible.
Even so, the team is up to the task, said Maj. Carlos Palacios, chief of S-5 for the Spanish Battle Group.
"The main task for this team is to monitor, control and support the return process in our AOR," said Palacios. "We have 183 resettlements in our zone which is double the number of DPRE camps that there are in the rest of the division. That means that our CIMIC team has to move continuously up and down throughout the AOR to visit, control and support the returnees and get the necessary information to make up the CIMIC projects in order to alleviate the population's hard living conditions."
Taking care of so many resettlements has led the team to many projects.
"During the two months we have been in BiH, we have submitted more than 30 different projects to the division. This means that each week the team has located, studied and presented three different projects," he said. "The projects concern infrastructure, education, health care and housing problems, and all of them related to the integration of the three ethnic groups and encouraging them to live and work together."
The team also provides humanitarian aid where they can in the AOR.
"One of the most important problems, mainly during the summer, was a lack of water. With the water we have supplied to the returnees during the last two months, we could have satisfied the drinkable water needs of the Mostar population for 10 days," said Palacios. "Also, food, clothes, school materials and toys - we have provided tons of all of these items and with them have alleviated, in some way, the hard living conditions."
Being there for the people is one of the most rewarding parts of the job, said 2Lt. Jesus Bravo, a CIMIC team leader.
"Most of the people here are too old to go out and visit others often, so they like to have some kind of visit from us to change their daily life," he said. "When you visit everyone is happy to see you."
One of the people the team has been trying to help recently is a 5-year-old girl named Selma.
She lives in a town where there are no other children, so Bravo has made a special effort to make her childhood a little better by bringing her some clothes, toys and candy - his only charge, a photo with the little girl.
"My wife sent me the toys from Spain and I had to promise her a picture from when I delivered them," he said.
Toys and items that can be held are not the only things the CIMIC group hopes to give to the returnees though.
"We primarily give them warmth and hope of a better future because with our continuous visits to the resettlements, they share their problems with us and in some way we can make them feel better about them," said Palacios.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Spain