Lonely post in...
Lt. Philippe Mouret
First published in
SFOR Informer#134, March 14, 2002
The Military Air Transit situated in Dubrovnik-Cilipi
International Airport is a little French Air Force post. Its
mission is to handle the air transit of SFOR Troop Contributing
Nations' military and civilian passengers, planes and helicopters.
Dubrovnik - The Military Air Transit (Escale aérienne
militaire, EAM) located on more than 709 square metres of
the Dubrovnik-Cilipi International Airport is a "lonely"
French detachment, with only six permanent people: four from
the Air Force (the EAM itself) and two from the Military Post
Office (bureau postal militaire, BPM) No 651.
Isolated but handling many people
The EAM hierarchy is under the command of Mostar Air Detachment
(Détachement air, DETAIR), commanded by Col. Jean-Marie
Kosinski, and under the operational control of the Multinational
Division Southeast (MND-SE) G1 and G4 Air Transit Offices.
Its mission is to insure the transit for SFOR planes and helicopters,
French as well from others nationalities, and to provide for
military and civilian SFOR passengers.
Capt. Manuel Da Silva, Transit Chief, has wide-ranging responsibilities:
"I must check that the air transport rules and procedures
are followed, and maintain good relations with Dubrovnik airport
The EAM is a little unit, perfect cohesion
must be maintained and problems have to be solved before they
The activity is very irregular. Some weeks, there are no aircraft
for seven days and other weeks, during relief time, there
can be 15 in rapid succession. In 2001, the EAM dealt with
300 aeroplane movements, carrying 13,582 passengers and 620
When a flight is planned, the freight, coming from Sarajevo
or Mostar, is received the day before. Administrative documents
are checked, the freight goes through X-ray, is put on pallets
or in containers, weighted and stored till take off. WO2 Thierry
Mappa, freight cell chief, is responsible for strategic plane
freight, on the heavy carrier Airbus A310 and the Mc Donnell
Douglas DC 8. His most important work is to balance the plane,
that is to say, to optimise the weight's distribution inside.
His pilot trusts him. "In France, we are part of a team,"
he explains, "here we make decisions alone."
Staff Sgt. Thierry Croibier is the deputy of Mappa and responsible
for tactical plane freight: mainly C-160 Transall and C-130
Hercules. He underlines: "We must work as a team. From
the security point of view we can't do a loading alone. Everybody's
abilities must be known in order to trust and to delegate
responsibilities." At each air rotation the two Air Force
non-commissioned officers receive the support of four soldiers
from the Mostar EAM 1st Paratroopers Transport Regiment, specialising
in air projection support. "I already knew the material
but it allows younger soldiers to gain experience and to work
with others forces," said Sgt. Stéphane Izak.
He teams up with paratroopers Privates Teddy Xavier, Lionel
Detour and Antony Rhetat.
Passengers are asked to report two hours before the plane
lands. They attend a briefing from the Transit Chief about
boarding procedures and security orders. Two French Military
Policemen, who arrive the day before to check the freight,
also put hand bags through the X-ray machines . "The
provost marshal guarantees everybody's individual rights and
conventions signed with Croatia," explained WO2 Emile
Heckly, Ploce provost unit commander.
Sgt. Fabienne Massondo is in charge of the passengers. She
does the reception, checks their passports and takes them
to the civilian international area. There, the Croatian Police
and Customs check travellers, documents and luggage again.
This is specific to Dubrovnik airport in contrast to Sarajevo
and Mostar: there is a double chain, first a military one,
and then a civilian one. In this respect, Ms. Milica Bratos,
an interpreter, plays a very important role in keeping a good
relationship with the airport. "We can't make any mistakes,
because rigorous security is needed," insists Massondo.
After the landing, the arriving passengers are received. Formalities
are rapid, they are driven by bus and they immediately join
their units. At the same time, the leaving freight is loaded
as soon as the arriving freight has been unloaded. The papers
of the inbound freight are checked and it is immediately re-packaged
in containers to be taken by the detachments, which have come
to receive it.
Mail parcels travel with the freight, both incoming and departing.
The mail is very important for soldiers far from home. Sgt.
Ronan L'Hostis is the BPM 651 chief, Lance Cpl. Jérémie
Raguenez his deputy. The office performs all classic operations:
mail and parcel sending and reception, financial operations
However, the job is done for the benefit of very few people
on the site: the six permanent members of the Transit team
and the 16 French signallers in Trebinje. On the other hand,
the postal volume going each day through Dubrovnik is huge.
Six times a week the BPM receives 20 large priority mail bags
and sends back the same amount in a civilian plane. Slow parcels
travel by military plane.
The Dubrovnik EAM, isolated and small in size, sees all year
long a lot of people and units passing by. Its efficiency
depends on co-operation, co-ordination and the professionalism
of everyone in the team.
Related links: SFOR
Nations of SFOR: France