FOB Connor: Reaching Out

Capt. Russell Craig
First published in
SFOR Informer#140, June 6, 2002

On May 20, American soldiers conducted a patrol in the Bratunac area. The patrols originated from Forward Operations Base (FOB) Connor, where information was gathered on returnees.

Bratunac - Camp Connor sits atop a small hill, on a ridge that overlooks several valleys in Eastern Republika Srpska. With its metal gates and featureless concrete walls, it dominates the area like an old Wild West fort.
"We are here to provide a safe and secure environment," said 2nd Lt. William John Hussey, 5th Platoon Leader, Task Force 1-14. "Our job is to be out here on the edge where most of the excitement is. The locals get to see that SFOR, and Americans are present and involved with the International Community."
Life on Camp
The FOB is very small in comparison to other American SFOR bases in the area. Despite this conditions within the camp are still good.
"Life on camp is okay, especially when compared to the conditions that the infantry (soldiers) could be in. We have television and the Internet," said Hussey.
Even with the comforts of home, the men retain their edge through the efforts of their noncommissioned officers (NCOs).
"Life on camp is pretty good," said Spec. Mulitauaopele Amarillo, team leader.
"Our first sergeant has plans to keep our motivation up - we go out on patrols. The time goes quickly and therefore, we go home faster." These plans include carrying out drills, and ensuring that the men make full use of the American Army's schooling system. The program allows soldiers to study for academic qualifications while serving overseas.
Out On Patrol
Life within Connor is broken up by the patrols that are carried out in order to provide a safe and secure environment for the area.
"I think our strength is that we talk to people," said Hussey. "We interact with the locals, and with that we avoid charging around the countryside with our .50 calibre weapons. We talk about their problems, and are very successful in passing this on to the relevant international organisations (who are able to solve the problems)."
With a thorough briefing conducted by Staff Sgt. Steven Crafton, an infantry squad leader, the fully equipped HUMVEES roared out from Conner, and into the Bosnian countryside.
The patrol dealt with many issues, including helping co-ordinate the possible finding of human remains in a returnee village. At every stage the American soldiers took the chance to chat with the townsfolk.
"What we mainly do is talk to the local people, often in outlying villages, and see what their needs are, and issues - if they have any," said Crafton. "One of the biggest things is our presence. People thank us. One Bosnian-Serb family hadn't seen (members of an international task force) since 1993."
"The people out here respect us, the kids look up to us," said Pfc. Dennis 'Bart' Bartolome. "In Bratunac we conducted night patrols, and people welcomed us and we chatted with them."
Patrols are conducted during the night and day, with varying objectives. Talking to the local people is one of the more rewarding experiences for the soldiers.
"The villagers say that they wouldn't be safe if it wasn't for us. If we left, they would leave," said Crafton.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: US
Related link: SFOR at Work

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Photos: PO Susan Rose

Children eagerly greet the American soldiers.

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American soldiers talk with folks from a local village.

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2nd Lt. William John Hussey (middle) and Staff Sgt. Steven Crafton (right) chat with a returnee about his concerns.