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Spanish Cavalry on patrol

By 1Lt Javier Donesteve
First published in
SFOR Informer#104, January 10, 2001

Mostar- Last December 31 was Sunday. It was the last day of the year; arguably the last day of the century and millennium too. But for the Spanish Cavalry it was just another day.
It is 0830 hours, and feverish activity can be seen. Everyone is getting their weapons and vehicles prepared. It is cold. The soldiers cover themselves with gloves, scarves and balaclavas.
Captain Luis Joven, the Squadron Commander, gives mission briefs to his leaders. Every lieutenant or sergeant receives his orders. Some of the tasks are platoon-size, others squad or section-size. At 09:00 the patrols depart.
This is the Light Armoured Squadron "Numancia" (its members are from Cavalry Regiment "Numancia"), of the Spanish Task Force X. They have been in BiH since the beginning of December 2000, for a six months tour. Every Spanish task force includes a cavalry squadron, but as four army brigades are involved in SFOR rotations, three Infantry and one cavalry brigade, the time has come when cavalry supports the cavalry.
Modern-day horses are the VEC's ("Cavalry Reconnaissance Vehicle"), a six-wheel drive Spanish-made armoured vehicle, armed with the 25 mm. Bushmaster automatic cannon. "We have just received the improved version, with a more powerful new engine, a new dome for the driver, and a few other things" said Sgt. Jesus Pardos.
"The Squadron is the reserve unit of the Task Force". Says Captain Joven. "Our tasks are specially reconnaissance and patrolling. Whereas the companies (squadrons in infantry role) have their own sector, ours is the whole Spanish AOR (Area of Responsibility). This means thousands of kilometres," he stresses.
Today's destination for 1Lt. Vizoso's platoon is Kukovac. Close to Medugorje, Kukovac is a high point (vertex) where the Spanish Task Force has a "rebro" (re-broadcast) station. "We go frequently to take a look at them, so they do not feel isolated" he says. "Today we are bringing them a television and some grapes, so they will be able to welcome the New Year" (In Spain everybody watches TV at midnight of the New Year eating a grape of luck with each chime of the clock of La Puerta del Sol, in Madri).
First Lieutenant Julio Vizoso is 35 years old, and has been in the Army since 1984, when he joined the NCO Military Academy. Three years later, he became Sergeant. In 1996, after selection and two more years of studies, he became Second Lieutenant. This is his second tour in Bosnia, following a 1992 one with UNPROFOR. From it, he remembers escorting convoys of humanitarian aid along the road from Mostar to the besieged Sarajevo.
The patrol moves on leaving the Neretva Valley and climbing up to Medugorje. "There is a beautiful view of the Valley up here!" says someone. Arriving in the town, dozens of buses are parked in the area of The Virgin's Hermitage. "For Catholics, it is nearly as popular as Lourdes in France, or Fatima in Portugal" says a local man. Hundreds of pilgrims from many nations, even Japan` look suprised at the war machines. Everybody is taking pictures of the soldiers..
The Platoon goes through the narrow streets of Medugorje. People, specially the old and young, salute the Cavalrymen with really friendly faces. A few kilometres later, they leave the road and take a track that will take them to their destination.
After twenty minutes driving up very steep slopes, they reach the top. The signallers are waiting for them. Their dog barks. "We were watching you coming !" says Private Sergio de la Fuente, from Signals Company, Cavalry Brigade.
It is cold and windy up there. The patrol hands over the the TV and grapes and enjoys a cup of coffee with them. The mission is over barring a two hour drive back to base.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Spain
SFOR at Work