Team-building, different mindsets

Lt. Eric Bouysson
First published in
SFOR Informer#133, February 28, 2002

The Italian Battle Group (ITBG) conducted a professionalism program for both Federation and Republika Srpska armies, Feb 12. Marksmanship, lectures on disposal of explosive ordnance and communication skills were just a few of the lessons provided, as twenty soldiers from Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) experienced an introductory mountain-training course that focused on first aid and survival skills.

Jahorina - Formerly a site of the 1984 Winter Olympic Games, this ski resort hosted soldiers of both Entities working side by side. Eight Mountain Regiment instructors of Task Force "Gemona" provided both Federation and Republica Srpska soldiers with a one-day basic course in traversing snow, first aid and winter survival.
First things first
The day began with instruction on the pieces of equipment that the Alpini, Italian mountain troops regularly use. Skis, ski boots, snowshoes, ski poles, backpacks and stretchers. Though similar to civilian leisure gear, this military equipment is a result of lessons learned and provides the soldier greater support, comfort and security.
"Stretchers can be divided into two pieces and used to carry backpacks. Two ski poles can be assembled to form a probe, an invaluable tool to rescue fellow patrol members caught in an avalanche," explained Italian WO Leandro Salomone. More hi-tech equipment, though similar in deployability, such as avalanche transceivers, require a lot of training to be used properly.
The Italians concluded their presentation by transporting a "victim" on a sledge from an exercise-accident location to a safe haven. Since weather or terrain may not always allow a helicopter extraction, three possibilities were illustrated, allowing the patrol to spend the night, camouflaged and protected from the biting cold. "We are demonstrating a classic tent, a snow hole covered by skis and poles, and one dug into the snow cover," explained Lt. Alessandro Poli, company commander. "All of them ensure sub-freezing temperatures will not be reached and provide enough room for two to three soldiers," continued Poli. Students listened politely to an abundance of information and were introduced to expensive equipment that may be out of reach, for now, but the morning was considered a success.
Time to practise
After a break in the action, practice began on the training equipment. The bold Bosnians were impressive on the new skis as they quickly became proficient. Cpl. Nenad Durovic, from the Republika Srpska Army, admitted that soldiers of his army practise skiing one or two weeks, annually. "The techniques shown are interesting and the equipment is really good. Ours is older." Federation Army Captain Rolando Karadlic was happy with the day adding, "Practise is always good."
"They are practice-minded people. They are keen on learning by doing instead of learning by listening," said Italian WO 1 Christian Zuccarello. "We will adjust next time."
Although a single day of training is not enough for instruction, or equipment training, it would have to do. "It is a good opportunity to do an assessment and plan the next lesson" says Maj. Graziano Scarsini, the Battalion commander. "As there are some proficient skiers in both groups, a joint patrol is being considered," concluded Scarsini.
As the teachers and students departed the slopes, the spirit of international co-operation lives on, one more time.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Italy
SFOR at Work

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Photos: PO Andy Gedge

Skiboots vs. snowshoes, make up your mind.


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Instructors from the Mountain Regiment of Italian Task Force "Gemona" provided both Bosnian-Serb and Bosniac soldiers with a one-day basic course in traversing snow, first aid and winter survival.


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Full winter gear, pure Italian fashion style.


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Joint instruction for a shared destiny.


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Bosniacs or Bosnian-Serbs, the slopes put everybody on an equal footing.