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OPRES on tour

By Maj. Marie Richter
First published in
SFOR Informer#121, September 5, 2001

The Operational Reserve (OPRES), made up of the Portuguese task force, left its own barracks in Visoko for a familiarization exercise with other SFOR troops. One company (13 Coy) went to Doboj to the Danish Battalion in the Nordic-Polish Battle Group (NPBG) and one company (11 Coy) to Tuzla to the American Commanche Base.

OPRES (Ground) mission
The Portuguese Task Force in BiH consists of two companies from 1st Paratrooper Infantry Battalion and one support company. They originate from Tomar in central Portugal and have amongst them the most decorated of the Portuguese troops. They have been deploying to BiH since 1996, first with an Area of Responsibility in Eastern BiH but now in a specialised role. Most of their training involves emergency deployment at short notice to wherever they are required in the country. They are on standby to be called to move by air or road to any crisis situation to deal with it independently or to support other SFOR forces. When not in the Balkans they also deploy to East Timor or remain in Portugal.

NPBG AoR

Doboj - The Estonian Army, part of the Danish battalion, organised a joint patrol between themselves and the Portuguese as part of a whole week of joint training activities. The purpose of this patrol was to familiarize the Portuguese with their Area of Responsibility (AoR), the local people and the organisations. During the patrol they were able to travel to several villages and find out for themselves the problems that the villagers encounter in everyday life. Their first port of call was Piliuzic, a small village with access problems, no water supply system and a high unemployment rate. Here the soldiers conducted a low profile foot patrol to ensure a safe and secure environment and then talked with a spokesman from the village. 1st Sgt. Hillar Pliiats led the patrol from the Estonian Scout Squadron. He spoke to the locals about their problems: "This is a peaceful village but life is difficult because of unemployment. They have some help from Red Cross parcels."
The patrol then went on to Rosulije where similar problems were encountered. They also had no medical facility nearby and very little transport. The families recognised the Estonians, greeted them as friends and invited them into their homes.
The last duty of the patrol was the checking of a barracks of the Bosnian Croat component of the Federation Army (VF-H) in Omerbasicka, to ensure the sentry was armed and the other weapons were locked in a metal container. The VF-H were surprised to see the Portuguese on patrol but welcomed them as well.

American AoR

Tuzla - At the same time the Americans briefed the Portuguese company commander, Capt. Joao Bernardino, on their mission for the day. Bernardino passed the details on to the patrol commander, 2nd Lt. Goncalves. Goncalves said: "We have been given a map and plotted the towns we must visit and where to conduct our foot patrol. This is not our usual role, or a familiar area, but this is not a problem to us."
The patrol went out from Commanche Base with a Chaimite V200 (APC) - not normally necessary for patrols in this area, but as the Portuguese would use these when conducting their usual role, they used them for practise only. The local children waved as they drove by, unalarmed by the sight of the fearsome vehicle.
As they went on foot patrol in Zvornik children treated the patrol as a normal occurrence, but the Chaimite, parked and guarded, drew much attention from the local villagers. APC driver 2nd Cpl. Helder Santos spoke about their experience: "It is good to get out and see the rest of BiH. Visoko is a small camp in a small town; our experience would be limited if we only stayed there. Normally I drive trucks but after a training course I can now drive the APCs, which is different." For some of the patrol, the experience brought back memories, 1st Cpl. Marco Santos remembered, "This is my second time in BiH. The first time we had an AoR so were out daily in the community. This time we train mainly within camp so it is good to get out again and be able to see the changes and improvements to the country."
When multinational soldiers partake in joint operations language is no problem. When given their briefs they all work together as one force; a trained soldier is a trained soldier no matter what nationality.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Estonia, Portugal
Training and Exercises