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The little house on the border of BiH

By 1lt. Kristoffer Egeberg
First published in
SFOR Informer#104, January 10, 2001

Gacko - Laughter breaks out from the small dining room. Out in the hallway, a hungry pack of soldiers wait for the second lunch seating. Space is luxury in the Gacko platoon house. with thirty soldiers in a small village house. But although the rooms are crowded, the soldiers will tell you that they like being a lone platoon doing their job on the border.
Only a few kilometres from the border with Montenegro is the village of Gacko, and a small outpost of MND-SE. Here lives a platoon from the French Battle Group in Mostar, rotating every week to give others a chance. Their mission is to maintain the general security in the area, with patrols and observation points along the 40-kilometre borderline, and make sure that the many refugees in the area are fine.
"Every week we have about 20 patrols, either on foot, by light vehicles, or APC's", says commander of the 3rd company of the 110th Infantry Regiment, Capt. Michel Magne. His 4th platoon is four days into its duty at the frontier.
In the kitchen, Cpl Wadah Berki directs his fellow soldiers from Squad 3. Since the soldiers prepare their own food, kitchen duty rotates through the squads.
"The competition is very hard between the squads. The dinner we're making now starts with rice salad as starters, a main course of lamb cutlets with new potatoes and peas, and fruit salad as desert", says Berki, determined to win the informal cooking contest.
Outside, a patrol has just come back after visiting refugees. Everything is peaceful and quiet, they report. No patrol is going to the border today.
"To go to the border, we always need two platoons. One to observe, and one in reserve to support if something should happen", says Capt. Magne.
The relationship with the local population is good. Most of their food and supplies are bought locally, bringing much-needed money to the community. They are often guests at local coffee shops or restaurants, showing SFOR presence in a peaceful relaxed manner.
"Sometimes our neighbours invite us in for Turkish coffee. Our relationship is good", says squad-leader Sgt. Laurent Auffroy.
"The people here are fine, and the countryside is beautiful", says Private Benjamin Blanchard.
In one of the crowded bedrooms, bunk beds take up nearly all the space. Occupying the only empty floor-space, Private Franck Hoareau is doing the daily maintenance on his MINIMI machine-gun.
"Life here is very good. The platoon is alone, and we do our own cooking. When were are not out on a mission, we write letters, listen to music, clean our weapons, or prepare ourselves for military exams", he says. "The most exiting thing is the border patrol. We observe cars crossing, and try to find out what they are up to."
Platoon commander Lt. Rémi Pons also enjoys life in Gacko. "I'm here with my platoon, and can choose most missions by myself. There is both freedom and plenty of responsibility for me and the platoon", he says.
He feels it brings the platoon closer together than during their normal duty in Mostar. "And there is more activity for us", he says.
"Dinner is served", shouts a voice, and the doors are opened for the second sitting. The hallway fills up with satisfied soldiers, claiming the meal to be the best to date. As the evening draws in, laughter and coffee-aroma fill the air, bringing life to the house on the frontier.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: France
SFOR at Work