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International Co-operation

By Capt. Russell Craig
First published in
SFOR Informer#125, October 31, 2001

Usually the small village of Pedize and its resettled Displaced Persons and Refugees (DPRE) only meet the Italian soldiers of the 7th Alpine Regiment. Today is different, however, as the hills reverberate with the sound of armoured vehicles. For patrolling alongside the Italians are also members of the Spanish 14th Cavalry Regiment of Madrid.

Pedize - The 7th Alpine Regiment forms the Italian Battle Group (BG). They patrol within MND-SE and carry out a wide range of activities. As Capt. Giuseppe Minissale of 65 Coy explains: "The Italian Battle Group patrols a variety of routes, and covers much more than just DPREs We also monitor the armed forces in both entities and patrol zone orange. Zone orange is the battle group's area of responsibility along the border with Serbia. We also have a platoon that acts as a quick reaction force."
The Cavalry troops from the ELAC "Villaviciosa 14," Madrid, Spain are part of an exchange scheme between the Italians and the Spanish Battle Group in Mostar. 1st Lt. Roberto Faravelli of the Italians explains why this is important: "Such exchanges allow us to improve the depth of knowledge between the battle groups. So that when a hot spot occurs it can allow us a tactical reserve. The main aim is to improve the interoperability between the forces by improving our knowledge and familiarity in tactics, reserve support and capabilities." To demonstrate that the process is profitable for both sides, Faravelli talks through the extensive four-day package, which includes live firing range work, joint patrolling and demonstrations of explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams. Thankfully for those involved there will also be a chance to enjoy a night of Italian hospitality.
The patrol
The patrol consists of a soft-skinned Italian vehicle as well as two Spanish armoured reconnaissance (VEC) vehicles. The small convoy skilfully negotiates the steep roads that wend their way into the hills around Sarajevo. The last three miles to the house of the DPREs are largely on dirt tracks where the local inhabitants stare in curiosity at the passing SFOR patrol. Once there, with a partially built house as a background, 2nd Lt. Augusto Zamero chats to Sulejnan Bukva, the head of the DPRE family.
"With this kind of patrol we go to the DPREs and find out what their problems are," Zamero says. "We also provide security as other people see that we pass."
In this case the DPREs seem less worried about hostile neighbours than the coming winter, as Zamero points out: "There is a problem in winter, there are worries about food, wood, clothes. Indeed in other places people are more unlucky as they live in tents. We ensure that such problems are passed correctly through the chain of command."
Cpl. Mirko Strioco of the Italians highlights that such patrols offer the chance for a greater understanding of many of the issues. "We can see the people on the land, how they live, their condition of life. We can see what the war has done here. It was years ago but we can still see the effects. Here I can see what my grandfather and father meant when they talked to me about the war in Italy." He remarks fondly that, "the people are never angry to see us, they are always friendly. The children are the best thing, when we go into a village they run around us."
If the landscape is a reminder of war, of mistrust, the patrol itself acts as a symbol of unity. Zamero remarks that "It is interesting to work with other countries' soldiers with everyone teaching and everyone learning." Strioco sums up the sentiments of the Italians: "They are people, soldiers, like us." The Spanish cavalrymen echo such feelings. Sgt. Jesus Lison Turpin thinks, "it is important that nothing stands between the Spanish and Italians, so that we can learn each other's methods."
Once the mission has been completed the patrol remounts its vehicles and returns to base. As the echoes of the engines fade from Pedize perhaps this truly international force will act as a reminder that people from different backgrounds and countries can, and do work in harmony and unity.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Spain, Italy
Related link: SFOR at Work