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"Walking in the rain"

By Cpl. David Thomas
First published in
SFOR Informer#107, February 21, 2001

Mkronjic Grad - Under a fine and yet persistent rain, the twists and turns of the city opened up before the British soldiers.
They entered, step by step, through the sloping streets of Mrkonjic Grad. They disappeared downtown to arrive at the market place.
Each walking urban patrol begins like that.
Soldiers from A Company, 2nd Battalion of The Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment (2PWRR) prepare the four daily patrols. Cpl. "Mac" McCarthy's group is indicated to pace up and down the streets of the city.
The main gate of camp "Shoe Factory" is crossed, the four-man team can start to go downtown. The patrol has a precise objective: go to the market to ask questions of the tradesmen. Composed of four soldiers and a translator, the "little patrol" carries no more than two weapons. "Only two soldiers carry weapons, otherwise our attitude could be considered aggressive by the local population," explained Pvt. Jay Parks, who opened the way.
The market appears below an anonymous street. McCarthy used this moment to ask a question of a tradesman with translator Miroslav Bosnic's help. Each question is on a different subject: membership of Army, membership of reserves, whether they are refugees or not, if they are recent returnees, and their opinion on Mostovi, the newspaper produced by MND-SW. The three soldiers, use that time to give tradesmen and women this magazine in the local language.
The market visit goes smoothly. Soldiers began a conversation with a saleswoman. This one, a former refugee, returned from Donji Vakuf, spoke about everything.
Having contact with the locals is very good, Parks said. "It is really interesting because we can meet the local population. It's better than just driving vehicles."
As usual, the patrol went for a coffee in the downtown area. "We are here to show our presence in public places," explained McCarthy. "Villagers are happy to see us." Around a cup of coffee or a cup of tea, the team gave a progress report on their work.
Then, the soldiers decide to go to a former theatre in ruins for a reconnaissance. While entering the auditorium, the broken seats lie in front of a scene filled with rubble. A gaping hole, the consequence of a shell, pierced the roof. They are saddened by the spectacle in front of them. "Nevertheless, nobody seems to want to rebuild these cultural places," the translator said, then sighed.
The patrol came to an end by climbing the hill to the camp. Quietly, soldiers returned to the "Shoe Factory" to write a report on this very quiet … but wet mission.

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