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Waves - keepers

By 1st Lt. Luis Sanchez
First published in
SFOR Informer#116, June 27, 2001

Communications are of paramount importance to ensure the success of a mission. In the field, radio contact is invaluable to the soldiers when patrolling. The Balkan topography is so complicated that it is often impossible to set up re-broadcasting stations.

Trebinje - To deal with communication tasks in the eastern zone of the Area of Responsibility (AOR) of the Spanish Battle Group is the task of the Communication Centre of the Marines Detachment. They ensure and provide communications with the main camp, Mostar-España.
"Our mission is two-fold, firstly to receive and transmit all types of messages from our headquarters and, secondly, to provide support to the Tactical Battle Sub-Group," explained 1st Lt. Alfredo Palacios Ballesteros, Commanding Officer of the signal station.
In the middle of the camp several containers under camouflage are surrounded by barbed wire, sandbags and a sign warning people to keep away from the restricted area; several satellites and rigid antennas emerge from the roof, pointing towards the sky.
"We have a fax, various types of telephones, radio transmitters in several bands, HF inclusive, satellites facilities such as Hispasat and Inmarsat, a local communication network … and contact with Spain all the time. There is always one team on duty, the centre operates 24 hours per day," Palacios added.
A signal team of 16 soldiers comprises the staff, among them one sergeant who is responsible for all technical problems. "Work comes in fits and starts but I always have something to do. There is no lack of maintenance duty," said Sgt. Javier Rodriguez Romero, the technician.
One of the missions carried out by the signalmen consists of establishing one re-broadcasting station on the peak of Mount Leotar (1,228 metres), in southeastern Republika Srpska. It is the highest point of that area, from which they can assure a better transmission coverage across their AOR, and get rid of zones that are outside of the radio coverage. A two-signal soldier team is detached weekly. They are transported by helicopter (by the Multinational Army Aviation Battalion based in Ploce), from the Spanish Marines camp to the summit of Leotar.
"You and your mate spend one week alone until the replacement arrives, sometimes loneliness appears… It's not hard work, but you must be operative 24 hours and provide assistance," Cpl. Carlos Estebanez commented.
"We are always on the alert listening, if something happened we could act properly and start the emergency procedures if necessary. In this mission you can see that the signal job is real - not training. It is very satisfying to provide radio coverage to patrolling elements and they know that there is somebody behind the radio," Palacios concluded.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Spain
SFOR at Work