By 1st Lt. Luis Sánchez
First published in
SFOR Informer#128, December 12, 2001
To accomplish its mission effectively, the French
Battle Group has deployed platoon-size units across its area of
responsibility. Living in small units is quite different from
the life in Mostar-Ortijes.
Jablanica - After driving across sloping terrain,
a French squad arrives at the top of a narrow valley where the
tiny village of Meopotocje lies (Prozor municipality, some 50
kilometres west of Sarajevo). Villagers live in poor conditions
and receive their visitors in a friendly manner. What sets these
soldiers apart is that they are not strangers but neighbours.
carry out the SFOR mission by patrolling and monitoring and staying
in contact with locals. Bosniacs and Bosnian-Croats and also Displaced
Persons inhabiting the area. "We show our presence and collect
useful information. Locals are friendly," said Sgt. Alexandre
Carpentier, patrol commander.
The Alpine Hunters
The first platoon, 3 Coy, "27th Bataillon de Chasseurs Alpins,"
based in Annecy (in the French Alps), is at this time detached
in Jablanica, a city some 35 kilometres north of Mostar. A green-yellow
triangular handkerchief on their left shoulder easily distinguishes
these 26 soldiers from soldiers in the regiment's four other companies.
third company, comprised of five platoons, is deployed in Prozor
and Jablanica. Two platoons perform the mission in each place
on a two-week rotation. The unit's motto, "Pige et galope,"
refers to the company's attitude towards life: as soon as you
understand, run and accomplish your mission.
The members of the first platoon are the youngest of the Coy,
with an average age of 20. For most of these soldiers it is their
first tour in the theatre. They are well prepared and are highly
Living in the site
"The life in a small unit is quite different. We accomplish
the mission directly and we can see the results. Also, we have
a lot of initiative," commented 1st Lt. Louis-Marie Vallançon,
platoon commander. They keep in close touch with locals and authorities
whatever the religion or group.
post is the basement of a civilian home that used to be a restaurant.
It is set close to Prozor's road. Nothing special distinguishes
the site from the others, apart from the guard with a FAMAS 5.56
mm rifle at the gate, three VABs (French Armoured Personnel Carrier),
a VBL (armoured scout vehicle, 4x4) and a military car in the
To deal with daily duties, the platoon is divided into three groups
with rotating roles. The first is in charge of logistical and
security tasks. It involves providing security in the parking
lot and at the gate, and doing housework such as cooking the meals
or cleaning. Soldiers cook their own meals and they are really
Stephane Lannerey declared: "It's quite different from living
in Mostar and it's great for a change." His companion, Pvt.
Sebastien Pigny, added: "We are like a family that lives
together and it makes the time fly." Also Pfc. Dominique
Jeux commented: "Respect for others is the main point when
The two other groups are in rotation patrolling and monitoring
the area. In the evening a group patrols Jablanica's streets and
the other does it in the middle of the night. Meanwhile, the other
team doesn't waste time and tactical training is on course. There
was a reconnaissance exercise that day.
Staff Sgt. Thierry Vayssiere, deputy commander, is in charge of
logistic matters. "Once a week I go to Mostar and fetch supplies.
It's necessary to be organised and that everybody knows his duties,"
he said. He also discloses the secret of daily life: "The
platoon is like a gear. The main points are cohesion, union, professionalism
and that everybody does their best to perform the mission."
Night falls and lights are switched off. The village is sleeping
and in the small French detachment activity goes on. A night patrol
through the streets guards the safe and secure environment.
Nations of SFOR: France
SFOR at Work