TF Warhawk tightens circle on illegal drug trade

Cpl. Matthew McClelland
First published in
SFOR Informer#146, August 29, 2002

Moments after the sun sets and before the moon rises, four soldiers climbed out of their tactical vehicles laden with night vision and surveillance equipment. The troops in the trucks continued rolling on toward their objectives leaving their fellow troops to move quietly on foot into their hiding positions. The Sava River is also a place where many types of smuggling occur.

Sava River - Soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Troop E, 238th Cavalry Regiment, were conducting an anti-smuggling surveillance operation along the Sava River. Croatia, just on the other side of the river, is a short boat ride away. With the hope of identifying possible smuggling activity, the platoon split up into four separate elements.

Two mounted teams

The Sava River
The Sava River has a length of 945 kilometres. It springs up in the Julian Alps (Slovenia), runs through Croatia, forms the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia and (on a small distance) between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and finally flows into the Danube River in Belgrade. Its course is approximately oriented from West to East.
Five SFOR Battle Groups are located on the southern bank of the Sava River. From West to East, are the Canadians, British, Nordic-Polish (NORDPOL), U.S. and finally Russian.

Two mounted teams stationed their vehicles in different positions along the river and, with the use of night vision scopes mounted to their M-240B machine guns, kept "eyes on" their objective.
The cavalry troopers relished the mission as a chance to exercise their scouting and soldiering skills.
"This was a rare opportunity for us to actually perform as cavalry soldiers. We haven't had much of a chance to do that here," said Spc. Braxton Shirar, a driver for one of the two surveillance vehicles. "It was great to get back into camo paint and be tactical again."
The four dismounted soldiers made up the other two teams. Working in pairs, they took advantage of the riverbank's natural camouflage as they crouched quietly. Using night vision goggles and binoculars, they kept an eye on the river.

Safe and secure
Troop E's commander established his command center, and as the moon rose above the horizon and appeared from behind clouds, all the soldiers were in place watching the river. Their task was cut and dry: monitor the river traffic to and from the shore and report any suspicious activity to the command center.
"We gathered a good amount of intelligence that will facilitate missions in the future. This operation was very beneficial," said 2nd Lt. Charles Grady, E Troop 2nd platoon leader.
The Troop's leaders said this mission is laying a foundation for others to follow. They continue to contribute to maintaining a safe and secure environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina as it works to rebuild its economic infrastructure.
"I am very proud of my soldiers, they went in there with the knowledge of the mission and what was required of them," said Sgt. Kurt Griffis, one of the surveillance vehicle commanders. "They set up our surveillance point and performed their jobs flawlessly."

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: US
SFOR at Work

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Photos: Cpl. Matthew McClelland

Donning camouflage paint, Sgt. 1st Class Soren Schaller, E Troop 238th Cavalry, prepares for the upcoming mission.


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John Ashton of Headquarters Company 1st Battalion 151st Infantry Regiment sits in the turret of a HUMVEE waiting for the sun to set so troops can depart using the cover of darkness.


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A soldier keeps a close watch on the objective. With nearly 100 percent illumination the soldiers had plenty of light to see anything going on.


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Lt. Col. Courtney Carr and 2Lt. Charles Grady scan the area looking for any suspicious activity.