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The porpoises of Prozor

By 1st Lt. Javier Donesteve
First published in
SFOR Informer#113, May 16, 2001

Prozor - Capt. Michel Lesaffre, followed by two of his paratroopers, looked at the main entrance of the Unis Factory, guarded by a sentry. In fact, one day it was a factory, the next it was the headquarters of the 4th Field Artillery Battalion VF-H (the Bosnian-Croat component of the Federation Army), where many weapons are stored, among them M-114 (155 mm) howitzers.
Inside, B-Croat Maj. Zoran Mrsic waited for the French captain. A meeting was then held between the two soldiers, with the help of the French company translator, Mijo Banozic. "It was just a routine visit. For the time being, the monitoring of the weapons storage sites (WSS) is one of our main tasks," Lesaffre explained. "In my company's area of responsibility (AOR), we used to deal with four WSS, but the number has been reduced to improve the security, and today there is only this one."
Lesaffre commands the 2nd Coy, 3rd Paratroops Marines Regiment (RPIMa). These paratroop porpoises (the nickname of the French Marines) are now finishing their four-month tour in BiH. Once the regiment arrived in theatre, the 2nd Coy took over Prozor and Jablanica opstinas (municipalities), in the far northern section of the French Battle Group AOR. "Local population in these two municipalities is more or less 80 percent B-Croat. At present, two platoons of the company are permanently in Prozor, one monitoring the Unis Factory and the other involved in the normal activities, like patrolling," Lesaffre said.
But not everything includes patrolling inside the armoured carrier with the helmet and the flack jacket on. The task at hand was much more pleasant and gratifying - distribution of clothes and toys among the poorest people of Prozor. It was a CIMIC operation organised by the French Battle Group in co-operation with a local non-governmental organisation (NGO) called "The Spark of Life," run by Katarina Budimir. "Our organisation helps the poorest people in the opstina, no matter their age or their ethnic origin, from refugees to old people that cannot even move to go to the bathroom," she said. "Local authorities usually help us. Even the local radio station, Radio AMA has contributed to the organisation of this charity action, announcing it every day."
The French paratroopers, led by 1st Lt. Sebastien Berger, unloaded the trucks and helped the NGO personnel to organise the distribution. "Three truckloads of clothes and toys will be handed out here today. Everything comes from France, where it was donated by private citizens." Meanwhile, Lesaffre and Budimir had a chat about the co-operation with SFOR, she said she is very glad and hopeful. "It is the first, but I hope not the last."

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: France
SFOR at Work, Humanitarian Aid