By Sgt. Peter Fitzgerald
First published in
SFOR Informer#129, December 26, 2001
The Portuguese Operational Reserve (OPRES Ground)
took over patrols in the Doboj area from the Nordic-Polish Battle
Group (NPBG) for a week this December. The ongoing mission of
the OPRES in SFOR requires the Portuguese soldiers to be ready
to go anywhere at anytime.
Doboj - From his command post in Camp Dannevirke,
Portuguese Capt. Luis Martins, 13 Coy commander, reviews the daily
patrol plans for his troops. His company has been called into
Multinational Division North (MND-N) to take over patrolling duties
from C Squadron of the NPBG. The area of responsibility includes
three regions of contention or "hotspots" - Kotorsko,
Derventa and Bosanski Brod/Srpski Brod.
"This is our job," Martins says. "We train continuously
to be ready."
carrying out the mission of maintaining a safe and secure environment,
the Portuguese have a unique role within SFOR. Based in Visoko
in MND Southeast, the task force has theatre-wide reach in operations
and exercises. They can be called upon to take over normal framework
operations like area patrols. They can also be used in crisis
operations to support SFOR elements such as the Multinational
Specialised Unit (MSU).
"It's interesting working with different countries,"
Martins says. "Soldiers get to experience co-operation with
During this most recent mission, 13 Coy had a chance to conduct
a one-day joint patrol with Danish soldiers from NPBG's C Squadron.
The squadron was then called to Camp Butmir in Sarajevo to perform
a security detail. For the rest of the week, 13 Coy took over
patrolling responsibilities from C Squadron.
Patrolling in the Doboj area is nothing new to the Portuguese.
"This is our third time here, so we know the area quite well,"
Martins comments. "We just have to be careful on the roads
because of the weather."
After a summer of protests and demonstrations, cold and snowy
weather has come to Kotorsko and given it a sense of calm. For
the time being, land disputes have been quieted as construction
has been halted. While there are several hotspots in the region,
Kotorsko remains the main area of concern (See SFOR Informer No.
124, Oct. 17, 2001).
Largely a Bosniac village before the war, Kotorsko saw an influx
of Bosnian-Serbs in 1995. As people fled and became displaced
during the war, population shifts in the area resulted in Bosniacs
inhabiting Bosnian-Serb areas and vice versa. After the war, these
shifts would eventually lead to disputes over land ownership.
The situation was exacerbated in March of 2000 when the Doboj
municipality decided to award land plots in Kotorsko to displaced
Bosnian-Serbs. As the B-Serbs began building homes on the plots,
angry Bosniac returnees pressed for land rights. Demonstrations
and protests on both sides followed, and the Office of the High
Representative (OHR) has put off dealing with the matter until
February of next year. The winter weather and the continued presence
of SFOR have helped keep the situation calm.
"Everything has stopped," says Martins. "There's
no building going on, only a few people living there."
says patrols in the area are still necessary in order to provide
a "calming presence." The 95 soldiers of 13 Coy - all
infantry paratroopers - conduct continuous patrols of the area.
Each of the three platoons is given its own area of responsibility.
The patrols are carried out with eight people in two vehicles.
An interpreter and a medic accompany each patrol. The company
conducts nine patrols every day, each patrol lasting five to six
"They make up their own schedule, use map overlays and submit
their patrol plans to me," Martins explains. "The plans
are sent up to (headquarters) for approval and then they conduct
On patrol, Martins explains, the soldiers are tasked with gathering
specific information. They look for signs of friction between
ethnic groups or anti-SFOR sentiments. They also collect data
on displaced persons and returnees to keep records on numbers
"They go to churches and mosques, police stations, and they
know what to search for, what to ask the people," he says.
During one afternoon patrol in Kotorsko, 1st Sgt. Rogerio Da Silva's
platoon investigates one site where plots have been given to displaced
B-Serbs to build homes.
checking to see if everything's OK," says Da Silva, the platoon
sergeant. "We look for families to see if they have any problems."
The patrol can find no construction taking place in the harsh
weather, but they spot one family. Cpl. Antonio Da Rocha, a team
leader, asks the family a few questions. He finds that the father
is an unemployed construction worker with three children. The
family was unable to return to its pre-war home in Vozuca and
had to settle on this plot in Kotorsko. Their home is still in
the early stages of construction and the father tells Da Rocha
that he's just waiting for a time to build.
"Sometimes it's very difficult to ask some questions,"
Da Rocha says. "It's difficult for some of these people because
they're new to the area so they don't talk so much. Many don't
While it can be difficult at times, Da Rocha says that "most
of the time it's OK. I like communication with locals. Sometimes
you get offered coffee or something to eat. It's nice to talk
and make friends. That's the best part of patrols."
As the snow continues to fall, the patrol moves out to another
part of Kotorsko. Like on every one of their missions, the Portuguese
soldiers are looking to keep the situation calm and make new friends.
Related links: SFOR
Nations of SFOR: Portugal