By 2nd Lt. Bruno Ménard
First published in
SFOR Informer#118, July 25, 2001
For the first time, the soldiers of the Bosnian-Croat
component of the Federation Army (VF-H) took over from SFOR a
weapon storage site (WSS) located in Zepce, south of Doboj, in
Zepce - Eight o'clock, D-Day, Commanding Officer
of Nordic-Polish Battle Group (NPBG), Col. Franciszek Kochanowski,
headed a Polish ceremony on the parade ground of Doboj before
welcoming Commanding Officer of MND-North (MND-N CO), Maj. Gen.
Walter Sharp, to Zepce. It was an official farewell ceremony for
Polish soldiers who had completed their mission and were returning
home. In his speech, Kochanowski praised his soldiers for their
excellent job in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Now they will return
home with greater experience using the English language and a
new challenge of finding a job. The arms flexed, the proud soldiers
marched in front of their commander. Then, as every day, there
was a morning briefing in which the officers discussed the day's
weather conditions, the latest news in BiH and the schedules of
the different companies. The briefing allows NPBG CO to be well
informed about the daily happenings. Today, at 10.00 morning,
MND-N CO will land in the WSS area, said one of the officers
in charge of the schedule.
The end of the site's guard
that exact time, the American helicopter landed near the site.
The Polish Alpha Company and two Latvian MPs guarded the landing
area. They had left the site of the weapons storage the day before.
Lt. Andrz Gardynik, second platoon leader of Alpha coy, commands
a section of 22 soldiers. It was a very hard job. We were
in hostile conditions because the buildings in which we intended
to sleep were closed. So we had to sleep in our cars, he
said. In fact, they had to patrol every day and every night. There
was also a daily rotation with the other platoons to keep watch
on the site. July 5 was the last patrol before responsibilities
were handed over to the Federation Army. My opinion is that
we have very good relations with local soldiers, said Gardynik.
The Alpha coy commander, Maj. Demczuk, explained that the
attitude of the Bosnian-Croat soldiers is good towards us thanks
to the friendship that exists between soldiers, even if it was
the first direct contact we had. Polish Capt. Jaroslaw Bialas,
Joint Military Commission (JMC) officer, noted the same at his
level: Local commanders are very co-operative with us. Communication
is excellent. And it was the first time that SFOR forces guarded
a weapons storage site, he said.
Inspection of the WSS
According to Bialas, the weapon storage site is full,
especially with ammunition and some 200 weapons. Reviewing the
situation, he noted there were three or four storage sites before.
Now, there are only two, and the biggest one is in Tatarbuzda.
After arriving, Sharp and his translator were welcomed by Federation
Army Col. Drago Tomic and his soldiers under the kindly but careful
glance of Kochanowski. Demczuk, in front of the American and Bosnian-Croat
Generals outside and at Sharp's request, did a full explanation
of the situation of the site. Now, there are inspections
three times a day with driving patrols day and night, he
said firmly. Then the inspection began.
The site was a tiny village of containers, full of ammunition
and surrounded by circular barbed wire fence. In a hangar some
vehicles are stored, but ready to start. Some tanks are painted
a sand colour because they were forecast to participate in Desert
Storm, during the Gulf War (1990-1991).
There are many dangerous tanks, trucks and guns too, just near
Before taking off, the American General visited the Federation
Army barracks. At the entrance of the building, a full-length
portrait of a heroic long-haired soldier sits imposingly. On the
left, there is a showcase full of awards from sporting events.
The group is soon invited to go round the barracks and see the
operation offices, map and duty rooms, soldiers' dormitory, and
a room with a board on which heads of dead young fighters were
The day before, the loyal soldiers of the Federation Army took
over their barracks from Alpha Company. The action went
smoothly and without any problem, Schimalsky announced.
It was really the case.
SFOR at Work