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A biathlon for the peace

By Cpl. Sbastien Pisani
First published in
SFOR Informer#109, March 21, 2001

Manjaca - The presence of numerous armed soldiers of the Federation Army (VF) in Republika Srpska? Not so improbable if we consider what happened March 14 on Manjaca range. For the first time since the end of the war, units from both the Armed Forces in BiH (Federation and RS) and from SFOR competed in a friendly way on the occasion of the March and Shoot event organised by MND-SW. It is also important to note that this is the first time since the end of the war that soldiers from the Federation, in large numbers and carrying weapons, entered Republika Srpska. "This a red-letter day. Without a doubt, the competitive spirit is better than the fury of the fights," said Col. Rajko Ckonjovic, from the VRS.
The 400 participants proved they were up to that historical first. There were 17 teams (six from SFOR, four from the VRS and seven from the VF), each team was composed of 23 members. The first phase of the event was a forced march over 12.2 km of wet tracks with each team member carrying personal combat equipment weighing no less than 16 kg. "As soon as we heard that a March and Shoot competition was organised, we began to train our men. Warm-up and daily exercises are the key of the success," said VF Capt. Husnija Malkoc.
The officer scrutinized tensed faces of the 5th Corps Federation Army soldiers, who were waiting for the starting signal. "Go!" said British Warrant Officer 1 Bob Taylor, from Banja Luka HQ. Immediately the group rushed with a jangle of weapons and personal combat equipment. "This is a real nightmare," said VRS Staff Sgt. Branko Bakic. His team had just arrived and incurred a five minute penalty because one of the men cancelled on the way. The same happened with the Dutch Battle Group team. "We lost one of our guys after only two kilometres. Between the sixth and the ninth kilometre, it became very hard on the grounds of a lot of hills that we had to cross," said 1st Lt. Smit. "Not to mention that there is mud everywhere," said the Canadian Cpl. Jason Andrews whose clothes showed traces of the difficulties on the road.
Without further delay, trucks took competitors to the range. Soldiers from VRS and VF struck up songs on the way. The second phase of the event consisted of a marksmanship competition. The shoot was a falling target competition consisting of 20 falling targets engaged from 100 meters. For this part of the competition each team was split into two sections and only soldiers up to the rank of corporal shot.

Overall placings
1st Rapid Reaction Brigade, VF.
2nd 7th Knightly Brigade, VF.
3rd HQ 1st corps, VF.
4th 3rd Guards Brigade, VF.
5th UK Battle Group, team 2, SFOR.
6th DSG (UK), SFOR.
7th UK Battle Group, team 1, SFOR.
8th 5th Corps, team 1, VF.
9th 5th Corps, team 2, VF.
10th 1st Guards Brigade, VF.
11th General Staff 1st Corps, équipe 3, VRS.
12th General Staff 1st Corps, équipe 1, VRS.
13th HQ 1st Corps, VRS.
14th Netherlands Battle Group, SFOR.
15th Canadian Battle Group, SFOR.
16th Czech Battle Group, SFOR.
17th General Staff 1st Corps, team 2, VRS.

"I noted the same professionalism in every team. Soldiers of the Armed Forces in BiH are very well trained," said Australian Capt. Jason Ward, who managed the operations on the range.
Well motivated, soldiers of the Federation Army succeeded with remarkable results. The VF won the first four places with the Rapid Reaction Brigade, the 7th Knightly Brigade, the HQ 1st Corps and the 3rd Guards Brigade. But the other teams, nevertheless, put up a creditable performance. There is some talk of a new edition of this competition for next August. Events of this kind are important in the development of professionalism within the AF in BiH and offer an opportunity for the entities to interact with each other and SFOR in an atmosphere of friendly competition.
Why not the return match in Glamoc, on Federation's territory? And this time, the SFOR will win, that's sure!

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