Deep Ski Patrol
1st Lt. Pedro Fernández Vicente
First published in
SFOR Informer#131, January 31, 2002
A French Ski Squad patrolled an isolated area of the Nevesinje
municipality finishing with a long ski march Jan. 10. The
French battle Group (FBG) carries out such activities to ensure
that even the most remote places in their area of responsibility
(AOR) are patrolled. Due to bad weather conditions, these
patrols use various methods and equipment to approach their
Nevesinje - The silence was broken by the noise of helicopters.
The clamor announced the arrival of an Italian helicopter
patrol. In a matter of minutes, two helicopters landed,and
departed. A few moments after they left, quite returned to
the snow covered heath, but now ten French soldiers were on
In the next five minutes, the patrol commander quietly issued
his commands. Following these, the men ran to the rendezvous
point, donned their white jackets and skis. All were now ready
to go. Another command and the noise of skies sliding over
snow indicatedthat the mission had begun.
"This patrol is very interesting for me, especially from
the military point of view. I'm sincerely happy to be able
to do it in these weather conditions. And it is really rewarding
to see how glad these isolated people are when we arrive.
Then you forget the effort," said French Sgt. Christian
"For this mission we have brought ration packs in our
backpacks for Krusevljani village, where some Muslim families
have returned. They live in very hard conditions, without
electricity, running water, telephone and are completely isolated
because of the snow on the roads. The local police haven't
been there for more than two months. We are the only way they
have to communicate with therest of world," commented
Capt. Philippe Corbel, the patrol leader.
The patrol belongs to the 3rd Company of the 27th Alpine Troops
Battalion, which has the district of Gacko and Nevesinje as
its AOR. This large area includes the border with Montenegro,
which is also patrolled. Corbel explained that this patrol
aims to make the villagers feel less isolated by demonstrating
to them that the patrols can reach wherever they need to.
Concurrently the patrols gather information and keep their
own skills honed.
"Ski patrols in Bosnia and Herzegovina have two clear
enemies: weather conditions and mine fields. Of all the weather
conditions, the wind is the worst. When the temperature is
very low, the wind cuts into your skin, sharp as a knife.
Then you start thinking that your clothing is not as effective
against cold weather as you believed it was.
Mine fields are the other 'enemy' because you never know what
the snow-covered ground hides. The only way you can fight
both of them is by performing detailed planning," said
"We can do this patrol safely thanks to detailed information
about the terrain and the weather conditions. We reconnoiter
the terrain during the summer, when the weather is good. All
members of the company especially all the officers and non-commissioned
officers, are involved in these. We have the support of an
engineer officer who checks every possible route in order
to say whether it is clear or not. Then we bring our map and
our database up to date and decide which route is the safest
to reach our AOR. Because of this constant updating, you can
always find the information you need to maintain the unit's
operational capability even though you are a newcomer,"
"All members of the patrol take active part in this planning.
Everybody has detailed information about the route, the possible
dangers in the area, timetables, points of contact, etc. ...each
member could do the patrol alone and this turns the patrol
into a compact unit with high operational capabilities."
"As you can see, the French Deep Ski Patrol has few similarities
to a pleasant week-end ski trip," he concluded.
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