Romeo Zero Alpha

Lt. Col. Sam Burns
First published in
SFOR Informer#140, June 6, 2002

Mist has brought visibility down to 40 metres; strong winds blow rain horizontally across the road that coils high into the Vlasic Mountains. Here, the men and woman of the Dutch 43 Armoured Brigade Recce Team, operate Romeo Zero Alpha (R0A), a radio rebroadcast station that ensures communication between units working in the area.

Vlasic - "Without R0A we would not be able to communicate effectively across our Area of Responsibility," explains Squadron Sgt. Maj. Jurrie Van Der Zwaan. "The group monitors the radio equipment and provides security for the small compound. The group is fully self-sufficient during their time on station. They take everything they will need when they deploy." The station is situated high on a mountain, and allows radio signals to be retransmitted from one side of the range of hills to the other. Eight soldiers and an Advanced Medic man the station for a period of seven days at a time.
Managing a small team
The nerve centre of the station is a reinforced concrete building that serves as an observation post, gate control and equipment monitoring room. Sgt. Michel De Vries is Commander of E Group, 3rd Pl. "This place is manned 24 hours, seven days a week. The soldiers do four hours duty at a time.”
The timing of the changeover is staggered so that there's a fresh person in the room every two hours. Off duty time is spent in the accommodation container. We have satellite TV, videos, books and music. There is a small gym with a range of fitness equipment so it's not too bad here." De Vries, on his second tour in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), explains, "As group leader it's my job to make sure everything runs smoothly. I know my people well, and if there is a problem, or they are unhappy about something, I encourage them to talk about it. We discuss the issue and resolve the matter there and then. We get on well together so there are never any problems."
Off duty time passes quickly
Pte. Michael Kainama is E Group's IPR (Armoured Fighting Vehicle) driver. "I like my job in BiH, and I really enjoy the challenge of the road conditions." Kainama is a gifted artist, and enjoys building and painting Warhammer figures and models.
"I love to draw and paint, and I started Warhammer modelling about a year ago. I display some of them in a cabinet in my hometown's shopping centre. I will take these home with me on my next leave." Kainama always carries his paints and materials with him. "Off duty time passes quickly for me, I am never bored."
Good relationship within small group
All jobs are shared between the group, but De Vries and Kainama do most of the cooking. "They are quite good cooks," remarks 18 year-old Pte. Roy Holstege. "We bring extra spices and sauces that we like to add a little variety to the rations. I like the team I am with. We get on well and enjoy each other's company. Spending a week here is not so bad."

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Netherland
SFOR at Work

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Photos: Lt. Col. Sam Burns

On duty in the control room, Pte. Holstege, and Cpl. Rijnja.

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Small, yet vital for communications: Base ROA.

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With an eye for detail, Pte. Kainama concentrates on his model.