Task Force Eagle hands over key to Camp Comanche

Spec. Jessica Abner
First published in
SFOR Informer#148, September 26, 2002

At a ceremony at Camp Comanche, Sept. 5 Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack, Jr., commander Multinational Division North officially returned control of the post back into the hands of the Federation Army (VF).

Camp Comanche - The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has reduced the number of forces here in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) due to the success of the Stabilisation Force (SFOR) mission in establishing and maintaining a safe and secure environment.
The tallest flagpole in the Balkans
"This transfer of Camp Comanche to the Federation Ministry of Defense is a reflection of the success of our mission, and of the progress of this nation toward a peaceful, prosperous future," said Swannack.
The base belonged to the Yugoslavian Air Force before the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP) was signed in December 1995. A short time later, Implementation Force (IFOR) soldiers, who renamed the post Comanche, occupied the camp and established it as a base of operations.
Camp Comanche, originally known as Tuzla West, consisted of 225 acres, including a runway, eight bunkers, one road, and a set of unused railroad tracks.
The 642nd Engineer Company out of Fort Drum, New York, took on a $1.5 million project building helipads and taxiways in September of 1999.
Soon after the engineers arrived, they cleared a patch 200 meters wide and four kilometers long and hauled off 80,000 cubic meters of soil to make a work area safe for the aviation units stationed here. During the winter months they turned a frozen swamp into an airfield. Finally, the post expanded as the home of the aviation, infantry and logistics task forces.
The engineers built more than 200 buildings at Camp Comanche. These included barracks with space for 2,500 soldiers, motor pools large enough to accommodate 700 vehicles and helipads that could hold up to 54 aircraft. Nearly five miles of fencing surrounded a container holding storage facility, a fuel farm, a forward area refueling point, and an Army Material Command facility.
The prominent 90-foot flagpole that SFOR used to proudly fly the American flag every day, is the tallest flagpole in the Balkans. "Today, we'll lower the American flag that flew over this point for the last time," said Swannack. "After today, this facility will belong to the Armed Forces of BiH, and will fly the flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina just as proudly."
Great contribution of the U.S. soldiers
"This is the first base turnover of its kind to local military and serves as a pattern for other facilities," said Clifford G. Bond, U.S. ambassador to BiH. "We began talking about consolidation of Camp Comanche and Eagle Base last November."
"We hope to strengthen state level oversight of military here in BiH. It is essential if BiH is to qualify as a candidate for the Partnership for Peace (PfP) and ultimately membership in NATO," said Bond. "PfP membership is a realistic goal. It will only be attained with strong leadership by all leaders at the state and local level."
The Federation ministry of defense plans to change the name of the camp. But "the name of the base will be remembered and will always remind us of the great contribution of the U.S. soldiers to enforce peace here in BiH and heal the injuries of the war," said Ferid Buljubasic, Deputy Federation Minister of Defense. "Thank you, U.S. government for giving back this land in excellent condition where so much investment has been made. We will continue to maintain it."

Related links: SFOR at Work
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Photos: Spec. Jessica Abner

Federation Army soldiers salute while they raise their flag during the transfer of authority ceremony at Camp Comanche Sept. 5. MND-N units no longer require the use of Camp Comanche due to downsizing and consolidation of forces.

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Maj. Gen. Hans Swannack, Jr., Commander MND-N, hands over the keys of Camp Comanche to Brig. Gen. Refik Lendo, Commander 2nd Corps of the Federation Army.