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A fado played with a high tempo

By 1st Lt. Philippe Mouret
First published in
SFOR Informer#125, October 31, 2001

The 11th company of the Portuguese Battalion, from the Portuguese 1st Paratrooper Battalion, is part of SFOR Ground Operational Reserve (OPRES). Oct. 23, they carried out a live fire exercise on Glamoc range. The demonstration was attended and appreciated by several observers.

Glamoc - On an sunny autumn afternoon, the two platoons of Capt. Joo Bernardino's Mechanised Paracoy (see boxes) patrol a dirt track on a hillside among arid hills above the little town of Glamoc (Federation, canton 10).
Suddenly, the detachment is engaged by heavy fire from the base of a hill situated to their southwest. All at once, the six V200 Chaimite Armoured Personal Carriers (APCs), face and respond with their Browning heavy machine guns. Bernardino has already taken position in his command car (a Toyota Land-Cruiser equipped with radios) on a high point allowing him to appraise the whole area of engagement. His two platoons are set against four enemy armoured vehicles waiting in ambush a little less than a kilometre below. The enemy troops are entrenched in positions on the edge of a small wood.
On target
Without waiting, the commander tells his Milan (anti-tank missile) crews to destroy the enemy vehicles. Missiles settle on two all-terrain vehicles (UMM Halter). As the first missile darts off, time freezes for a few seconds and everybody waits for the impact. On target. With no time for congratulations, the second Milan crew is already firing: another success. Fifteen seconds to reload and two new missiles fly away. Both the remaining armored vehicles go down. The engagement has only taken four minutes.
To reduce the enemy ground troops' positions, the friendly forces need support. Bernardino contacts his company's mortars platoon which has already taken position in the southwest, on the other side of the hill. Four 81mm mortars are in place, with two settled on the Chaimite APCs. The first shells fall less than 10 minutes after the first shot of the battle. 1st Lt. Sergio Avelar, forward support officer, adjusts fire by radio. Few corrections are required however. The bombardment intensifies. The adversary weakens. The mortars cease firing.
Assault
With the fight having started 20 minutes prior, APCs move forward providing mutual support for one another. At less than 300 metres from the enemy lines riflemen land, take position and open fire. They fix on the last defenders.
From the southeast the Portuguese parachutists can hear some well-known music: three American Blackhawk helicopters from OPRES Air, bringing relief, arrive in close formation. They deposit an assault platoon, composed of riflemen from 11th and 13th Portuguese paratrooper companies, in the northwest of the wood held by the enemy. The alert was given less than half an hour ago.

Glamoc POR
The Portuguese Battalion is located in Visoko, but as a Theatre Unit it has to intervene all over BiH. Its mission is to stand in for units that have to leave their area of responsibility for exercises, for exemple in Glamoc, and to reinforce troops facing troubles. The OPRES (Ground) is composed of the 11th and 13th Rifle Paracoy and by a Support Company, from the Portuguese 1st Paratrooper Battalion.
Capt. Joo Bernadino's 11th Mechanised Paracoy has 41 soldiers divided into two platoons on Chaimite V200 APCs and UMM Halter/Milan, and a mortar platoon with Chaimite/mortar.

The troops form a line and now move forward in three groups covering each other. At less than 50 metres from opposing positions hand grenades are thrown and the final assault is launched. The wood is surrounded and cleaned out. Twenty minutes after the drop off the Blackhawks come to retrieve the assault platoon, under the protection of the APCs. The fight has ended; it lasted less than one hour.
Just concentration
After the exercise, COMSFOR Lt. Gen. John Sylvester, who was among the observers, congratulated the Portuguese parachutists, especially the Milan crews as he appreciated their quickness and precision. Sgt. Manuel Duarte, the second Milan shooter, explains that "it is not difficult to score, you just need concentration." It's already his third six-month tour in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and he is always keen to volunteer to come back, "to take part in a peace force."
2nd Lt. Joo Coutinho, 3rd platoon leader is very satisfied too. For him, "the important thing was staff safety. It was not easy to move forward with three Chaimite in a line on this uneven ground." He has been here already for three months too, and he has another three months to do. He particularly appreciates the bonds of friendship that have been established: "Relations with men are different from what they are in Portugal. We live together 24 hours a day, we are closer, we get to know each other." And he adds: "It is great also to work with troops of other nationalities."
Bernardino agrees: "I like co-operating with other armies. I learn a lot, as well as my men."

Milan Ground Launcher

Max range and flight time:

2,000 m in 12.5 seconds

Night vision device:

Thermal imaging

Warhead type:

Unitary shaped charge

Warhead penetration:

1,000 mm of RHA

Guidance/command link:

SACLOS/wire

Attack profile:

Direct LOS

Launch Platforms:

Ground tripod, compact turret

Bravia Chaimite APC

Country of origin:

Portugal

Designation:

Armoured Personnel Carrier

Configuration:

4 x 4

Manufacturer:

Bravia Sarl, Lisbon, Portugal

Crew:

8

Armaments:

1 Browning machine gun cal. 50 (12.7 mm)

 

1 Browning machine gun cal. 30 (7.62 mm)

Length:

5.60 m

Width:

2.26 m

Height:

1.84 m

Combat weight:

7,300 kg

Fording:

Amphibious

Night vision:

Optional

Related links: Training and Exercises
Portugal