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TOC at the top!

By 1Lt. Franois-Xavier Miller
First published in
SFOR Informer#108, March 7, 2001

Doboj - The Tactical Operations Centre (TOC) of Nordpol Battlegroup is unique-one of its kind.
First of all, its Area of Responsibility (AOR) has peculiar features. It is the second largest within SFOR, with a vast buffer zone due to the 135 km of Inter-Entity Boundary Line (IEBL), with lots of small roads and very few bridges. But above all, the TOC carries out at a battlegroup level what is usually done at a divisional level : co-ordinate joint combined forces from distinctive countries. Poles, Danes, Swedes, Finns, Lituanians, Latvians and Estonians are requested to co-operate day after day.
How do so many different nations work together ? Of course, procedures are the same. “And fortunately, everybody speaks English in the battlegroup,” says Polish Capt. Kryzstof Kaminski. “Regarding signals, they must cover the same frequences, so there is no problem,” he mentions. Even the Tactical Operations Centre itself is manned by a multinational team. A Danish officer, two Polish, one Lithuanian, one Latvian and one Estonian take over from one another to provide command. One Latvian, three Poles and a Dane supply the contingent of assistants.
Work is quite absorbing as much for the duty Captain, who has a 24 hour tour of duty, as his assistant, who works a twelve-hour shift. “We monitor patrols and rescue operations,” explains Capt. Kaminski. “Every day, at the morning briefing, we give the report on patrols, weapons storage sites inspections and miscellaneous events for the last twenty four hours,” he says, showing the map that spreads over a whole section of wall. Opposite, three desks support phones, radios and computers.
Patrols report to their Coy's Command Posts. These Command Posts keep the TOC informed so that he can directly contact a patrol should it be needed. “We are the ears of the battlegroup, we know everything. If someone has a question or a problem, first place they call is the Tactical Operation Centre. First people who know something in the battlegroup, that's us,” explained Ssgt. Aleksis Girts, from Latvian Army. On the other hand, units doing their training, or CIMIC activities, which have their own operations centre, do not report to the Tactical Operations Centre. “But we know which route they are patrolling or what they are doing,”pointed out Capt. Kaminski.
When the situation is out of the ordinary, it is once again from this place that all operations are monitored. This was the case with local unrest in Donja Bocinja at the beginning of January. “We have direct communications with units in Donja Bocinja and the Nordpol commander is always reachable, or the duty officer, to make decisions and eventually give orders,” mentioned Capt. Kaminski. “We can receive lots of calls . Sometimes you just haven't enough hands to answer all the phones and the radios. It is just like Murphy's law, all the phones ring suddenly at the same time,” Ssgt. Girts stated.
The TOC manages a vital and yet badly acknowledged task. Which is confirmed by Capt. Kaminski, “We know everything but we can't see the daylight.” A kind of work in the shadow…but always present.

Related link: SFOR at Work