American knights

Capt. Russell Craig
First published in
SFOR Informer#131, January 31, 2002

American soldiers from 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1 Battalion, 155 Infantry Regiment conducted a patrol around the returnee’s village of Kula Grad Jan. 21. Their mission focuses on the safety of villagers and information gathering.

Kula Grad - Above Zvornik a 14th century castle looms; behind it lies the settlement of Kula Grad. American soldiers, mounted in their HUMVEES instead of horses, have replaced the knights who originally provided protection for the community. The patrols ensure villagers live in a safe and secure environment.
"This patrol is to show a visible presence in the area, gather information and to talk to the people," said Staff Sgt. Michael Cullop, Bravo Company’s master gunner.
The last task on some patrols can be difficult in some areas as the inhabitants can be indifferent or offensive."
On Patrol
"The greatest challenge is getting people to talk to you, to gather information. It's hard sometimes," said Staff Sgt. Billy Gamble, the patrol's commander.
In Kula Grad the response was different. The children ran out to wave as the HUMVEES trundled in, joking with the soldiers once they dismounted. The reason for this open and friendly atmosphere stems from the nature of the community and the work carried out in Kula Grad. Susan Rattray of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) explained why the village is a success.
"The Kula Grad community is very committed to returning. It is also interesting because they are a community that is assisting each other. There are 40 families living in other peoples' houses (sharing), they have really worked together as a community from the word go," said Rattray.
Kula Grad
Rattray explained that the Kula Grad community consisted of 250 houses before the war. The Bosniac houses were destroyed during the conflict and the people became displaced persons. Since then, 84 houses have been built and 120 families have returned. The UNHCR has coordinated the rebuilding of the village which now has electricity, water and a school. The community is also encouraged to take part in municipal life, and the UNHCR hopes to rebuild more houses in the future.
The village, however, does face problems, one of which is economic sustainability.
"There is no problem between Serbs and Bosniacs. Time has passed. Both sides now worry about jobs," said Beriz Hadzic, the Village President.
SFOR had a critical role to play in the success. Rattray emphasised that from the very beginning SFOR has ensured that the villagers have peace and security.
The American soldiers have done more than just patrol the area. They collected donations for the Kula Grad School, and an American soldier teaches les-sons. Because of this the patrols always receive a warm welcome.
"The local kids are friendly, they always come over to us. Whenever we stop they swarm us. We don't give out food, but some pens and candies," said Cullop.
Hadzic stressed that he was happy to see the soldiers and added, "without the help of SFOR, we could not survive here."

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: US
SFOR at Work

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Photos: PO Steve Wood

Staff Sgt. Michael Cullop surveys the Drina River from the castle above Zvornik.


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Children gather as the HUMVEEs enter the village.


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"We Love Americans," is painted a wall in Kula Grad. A Bosnian boy gives a high five to American Staff Sergeant Cullop. The soldier is a member of the 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 155th Infantry Regiment.


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American Staff Sgt. Michael Cullop (right) chats with Beriz Hadzic (left), the Village President through Jasmin 'Bubba' Babajic, the interpreter.


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An American soldier mans the HUMVEE's mounted weapon.