By Sgt. Kerensa Hardy
First published in
SFOR Informer#117, July 11, 2001
Sarajevo - A final trip to visit an SFOR unit at
the Sarajevo International Airport signalled the end to a school
year and the beginning to a much-anticipated summer to a group
About 50 children and three teachers from Osnovna School in Dobrinja
were welcomed to the hangar that is home to the COMSFOR Flight
This fourth trip to the hangar was part of an outreach programme
that began in November. The 24 American soldiers who make up the
detachment are from the 3rd Infantry Division, Hunter Army Airfield
in Savannah, Georgia.
This programme provided a change in the day-to-day activities
of the detachment, whose primary duty is to transport COMSFOR
wherever he needs to go.
told (the headmaster) that I thought that it would be a good idea
for some of my soldiers to come down and do a community service
project with the school," said Capt. Michael Rutkowski, detachment
He said he thought it was important to show the children that
the Americans are here supporting SFOR, and part of that is reaching
out to and interacting with the local community.
"And what better way to do that than with the children? They're
going to be the ones who are going to carry on the future of (BiH),"
Since its inception, one soldier from the detachment would go
into one of the classrooms once a week, teach them English and
answer some of their questions. Recently, the students began coming
to the hangar for tours, a different group each time.
"The kids have been great," said Sgt. 1st Class John
Van Vactor, maintenance platoon leader, who is something of a
local celebrity with the children. "We had a chance to show
them what we do
while we're here. They get to ask whatever
they like ... and we get to dispel some of what they see on television
Vactor said he has always enjoyed doing this kind of thing and
it's rewarding to work with this particular group. The Osnovna
School has 800 students and about 52 teachers. Because there are
so many, students and teachers come in two shifts - one in the
morning and one in the afternoon.
"Of those 800, 400 are displaced persons and 200 are orphans,"
Van Vactor revealed. "They've had an extremely hard row to
The detachment commander said that he thinks the children will
reap long- and short-term benefits from this programme. An immediate
benefit being that they can go and share this with their parents.
"The long-term benefit is that as the children grow older,
they can take this experience of what they've learned here with
us and they will have a better perception of what SFOR is trying
to do - not only by the Americans, but all nations," Rutkowski
"It lights up their faces, they're extremely happy and it
just gives a good feeling to all of us that we are making a difference
Nations of SFOR: US