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.
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.
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.
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.
a patrol has just come back after visiting refugees. Everything is
peaceful and quiet, they report. No patrol is going to the border
"To go to the border, we always need two platoons. One to observe,
and one in reserve to support if something should happen", says
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.
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.
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."
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 feels it brings the platoon closer together than during their normal
duty in Mostar. "And there is more activity for us", he
"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.
Nations of SFOR: France
SFOR at Work