Here come the Latinos!

Capt. Constantin Spinu
First published in
SFOR Informer#147, September 12, 2002

Sept. 6, the Spanish Marines from the Tactical subgroup 'Soldado Luis' had guests in their camp of Duzi, located near Trebinje: the Portuguese 1st Rifle Coy / 2nd Infantry Battalion belonging to the Operational Reserve (OPRES Ground). Together with elements of the French Battle Group (FRBG) they performed a routine patrol in their Area of Responsibility (AoR). Their mission was to check Bosnia and Herzegovina's borders with Montenegro and Croatia, control road traffic and avoid smuggling.

The mission was a routine one for the Spanish Marines, but for the Portuguese troops it proved to be a very useful experience.
A routine mission but not an easy one
Trebinje - Major Jose Canovas Garcia, Commanding Officer of the Spanish Marines Tactical Subgroup and his staff are supervising the companies tasks in the Operations Room. The Spanish Marines, the Portuguese Riffle Company and a detachment from the FRBG will perform a joint patrol mission in the Spanish AoR.
“It is very good to have the Portuguese here, for one week,” said Canovas. “Our area of responsibility is quite big, so any help is welcome.”
The tasks are very simple to enumerate, but not so easy to perform. For the Spanish Marines this is almost a routine mission.
“This is our fourth patrol mission,” said Capt. Luis Carvajal Romero, operations officer of the Tactical Subgroup, “we've done one patrol mission per month until now, so it is a normal mission for us. But that doesn't mean that it will be an easy one. We will control the BiH borders with Montenegro and Croatia. We have some information that the Bileca Lake is used for smuggling, so we will check the area, and install check points on the main routes. It won't be very easy at all,” he said.
The unique role of OPRES
In carrying out the mission of maintaining a safe and secure environment, the Portuguese soldiers have a unique role within SFOR. Based in Visoko, the task force has theatre-wide capabilities in operations and exercises. They can be called upon to take over normal framework operations like area patrols. They can also be used in crisis operations to support SFOR elements.
“It's interesting working with different countries,” said Portuguese Capt. Antonio Feliciano Mota Dos Santos, “soldiers get to experience co-operation with other armies.” During this mission, 1st Riffle Coy had a chance to conduct a one day joint patrol with Spanish soldiers.
The SFOR 'Esprit de Corps'
On the main roads in the Trebinje area, the 'Latinos' patrols were at work. “It is my first mission abroad,” said Spanish Pvt. Rafael Puertas Casado, “I find it risky, but I'm ready to react any time. If I've got my weapon and my comrades to support me, I've got all I need.”
For many soldiers this is their first mission, but they are already convinced that it is a valuable one. “I will improve my chances for a better career,” said Cpl. Raul Gil Blas, also from Spanish Marines, “I was very surprised to find out that all the soldiers from no matter what country speak the same language -- look on things in a similar way. It is very good that we have the opportunity to exchange information about our equipment, and also our procedures.”
But the most impressive definition of what it really means is to serve as an SFOR soldier came from a French officer.
“This patrol mission is as much important as any other. We are doing our job as best as we can. But what really matters is that we act together like a single nation, the SFOR nation. We are led by the same motivation, the SFOR 'Esprit de Corps',” said 1Lt. Nicolas Meunier, platoon leader, Scout Squadron of the FRBG.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Spain, Portugal
Related link: SFOR at Work

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Photos: Sgt Diego Ropero Pastor

Capt. Luis Carjaval Romero, operations officer of the Spanish Tactical Subgroup (foreground) gives out the orders to his subordinates from his commanding post near Trebinje.


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Portuguese soldiers gather the materials needed for their departure.


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All the 'Latinos' co-operate perfectly. Here, in the operation room, they discuss the final details of the joint patrol operation.


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Checking the itinerary before departure.