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SLTC: SFOR's Croatian connection

By Sgt. Peter Fitzgerald
First published in
SFOR Informer#125, October 31, 2001

Much of what SFOR does in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is connected to Croatia. Many goods and services, along with personnel and equipment, move through Croatia to support the SFOR mission in BiH. Helping to facilitate operations between the two countries is SLTC, SFOR's Croatian connection.

Zagreb - Located 288 kilometres from Sarajevo, the Croatian capital of Zagreb is home to an element of the Stabilisation Force known as SLTC, SFOR Liaison to Croatia. The liaison team is responsible for representing SFOR's interests in Croatia.
"Our mission is to support SFOR operations in BiH through liaison with Croatian authorities - governmental authorities, individual companies and private citizens," said Canadian Lt. Col. Marty Schlosser, deputy chief liaison officer.
Schlosser, who just completed his tour in Zagreb, said Croatia plays an important role in SFOR because many of the goods and services the force needs to carry out its mission in BiH move through Croatia. Two-thirds of BiH is bordered by Croatia, making it essential for SFOR to maintain good contacts with the country.
To fulfil its mission, SLTC carries out a number of operational tasks. First and foremost, the team acts as COMSFOR's representative in Croatia. Working with the Croatian Office for Co-operation with International Institutions, SLTC interacts with several governmental institutions to carry out this task.
"On a daily basis the liaison staff is in contact with the Office for Co-operation," Schlosser said.
Successful liaison work is a matter of maintaining good contacts, said German Maj. Manfred Rudorfer, an SLTC liaison officer. In his time there, Rudorfer said there have been "no big problems" with Croatian authorities.
"Any problems that do occur are resolved quickly because of a good relationship between SFOR and Croatia," he added.
When something does happen in Croatia with SFOR members, the liaison team's task is to safeguard the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between NATO and Croatia, which differs somewhat from the agreement between BiH and NATO. The agreement affords SFOR members certain rights and privileges, but it also demands certain responsibilities.
"There are different rules here and we have to respect Croatian laws and regulations," Rudorfer said.
Another SLTC task involves supporting National Support Element (NSE) activities in Croatia. Various NSEs provide services, like travel and mail, via Croatia. The liaison team helps facilitate this process through its contacts with Croatian authorities.
The team also monitors any developments in Croatia that may have an impact on SFOR's mission. For example, SLTC would report on any drastic changes in the economy that may directly affect the SFOR mission in BiH. SLTC also represents SFOR concerns in co-ordinating with the United Nations and other international organisations in Croatia.
Carrying out these various tasks is a staff of 29 military and 26 civilian workers, in both liaison and support roles. With the exception of an eight-person detachment in Ploce, Croatia, the SLTC team lives on a compound in downtown Zagreb known as the Defenders of Vukovar Barracks (DVB).
The DVB community
The barracks, guarded by Croatian soldiers, houses a number of lodger units. SLTC's secondary mission is providing support for these units, which include the SFOR Customs office, an SFOR Air Traffic Control unit, a post exchange (PX) and several British support units.
While somewhat detached from the rest of SFOR, the various elements at the DVB enjoy their unique mission in Croatia.
"It's a real community here. It's small so it's easy for people to mix together and get on, which is good," said British Lance Cpl. Alan Uden, a postal courier with one of the British lodger units.
Keeping that community in touch with the rest of SFOR is a multinational signals group, also housed at the DVB. They provide secure telephone service, cryptology, and Internet and network connections for SLTC.
"Without communications, we're isolated. We keep SFOR Zagreb connected," said German Master Sgt. Stefan Kresse, Operation and Maintenance chief of the signals group.
Through the efforts of the liaison team, SFOR stays connected to Croatia. Canadian Lt. Col. Dominique Guay, the new deputy chief liaison officer, said the liaison work done by the team remains a vital part of the SFOR mission.
"Our personnel make it easier to address SFOR concerns in Croatia," he said. "We're here to help."

Related link: SFOR at Work