A French Gendarmerie Patrol

Capt. Benoit Guilloux
First published in
SFOR Informer#139, May 23, 2002

The Gendarmerie Investigation and Surveillance Platoon (PGSI) is manned by 13 NCOs and one officer. Their main mission is to gather intelligence for Multinational Division South-East (MND-SE). Originating from all over France, these men serve six months in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Radacici - It is 8 p.m. A 4x4 P4 vehicle passes the main gate of Rajlovac. On board: Lt. Pierre Couve, platoon commander, Staff Sgt. Laurent Moreau, Gendarme Benoît Fischer and interpreter Edin Begovic.
Hospitality in Radacici
An hour-and-half later the asphalt is left behind for a winding and mountainous path. The pass is reached and the patrol stops to talk with local farmers. The place is known as Radacici. The patrol is immediately invited by the farmers to join them for coffee. The soldiers happily accept.
These returnees in Republika Srpska fled their houses at the beginning of the war. Edin, speaking in perfect French, recites word by word the on-going conversation. A neighbour, Mircad, as well as an 80-year old man are present. The elder says:
"My house is still occupied by four Bosnian-Serb families. My sons live abroad. One of them would consider coming back if only I had my house back. The eviction of the illegal occupants was decided five months ago." A neighbour comments, "These people use too much of our natural gratitude. However, I remain confident for the future. I lost my 13-year old son during the war, and now I only care about my daughter's future. Fundamentalists shall have less and less weight with time passing by. To me, war criminals who remain at large, it is a defeat of what liberty is all about."
French gendarmes and villagers begin talking about sports, a binding subject. Gradually, tongues are loosened. Mirsad puts forward his daily concerns. "I miss basic means. I would like to have some cattle but I am even unable to build a barn. Besides, no animals were offered locally as elsewhere in the country. You know, a cow represents up to 40 percent revenue for a small farm. We are quite isolated over here and we hardly meet anyone."
His neighbour concludes, "We are happy with such a meeting. It is always interesting anyhow." The patrol then leaves.
A fascinating job
Further away, the team of soldiers will stop for a lunch break. It is a moment to unwind a bit before work starts again. The troops open their food rations and start exchanging ideas. Gendarme Fischer compares his current work with what he does in France. "It is just like my daily task back home. In France, I also work often with farmers. They get to see a lot and are naturally curious about their surroundings. Here, they may inform us about war criminals, mass graves, mine localisation or even day to day crime."
Moreau, Patrol Commander, comments that "After a day's work, all information is sent in writing to Mostar for proper treatment." Couve elaborates, "We carry out gendarmerie-type intelligence, that is to say human intelligence. We are a divisional, organic element and refer directly to Mostar Headquarters." The work these men undertake is a fascinating job, in short, it's serving others. Edin, agrees. "I do not feel any monotony in my work whatsoever. Besides, we get to visit all parts of the country and all types of people."

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: France
SFOR at Work

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Photos: PO Susan Rose

The patrol settled down round a table, but still working.

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Town or country, the same hospitality.

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Generations follow generations, life goes on.

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The happy-go-lucky attitude of the childhood.