No communication barrier
Maj. John Dowling
First published in
SFOR Informer#150, October 24, 2002
For decades, the United States and Poland stood at opposing
ends of the political, economic and military spectrums. Multinational
Division North soldiers representing both of these countries
now find themselves partners in pursuit of peace in Bosnia
Srebrenica - Recently, a squad from Task Force Blue Steel
teamed up with their counterparts in the Nordic Polish Battle
Group (NPBG) to provide a significant military presence in
an often contentious area near Srebrenica. While contributing
to peace and stability, the troops were sending an important
message that forces from diverse backgrounds can work together
"I wasn't sure what to expect. As soon as they said 'Nord-Pol,'
I thought they said 'North Pole,' so I thought ... Santa Claus?"
said Spc. Greg Campbell, driver, 109th Infantry, who in his
two years in the army had never trained with other nations.
"While we were up in their sector, we trained with the
Finns, Swedes and the Poles. Just to see the way they ran
their armies was impressive."
The squads alternated presence patrols over the course of
two days. The Americans traveled to Doboj the first day to
cover the NPBG sector, and the Polish troops made the trek
to Forward Operating Base Connor the next day to return the
While there was no jolly old man wearing a big red suit, the
Polish soldiers stood out sharply in their wine-colored berets
with distinctive airborne patches on their shoulders.
It was the same patch on Polish Staff Sgt. Darek Kadziola's
uniform that attracted the attention of Sgt. Richard Williams,
gunner, 109th Inf. "I'm a history buff and recognized
the airborne patch," said Williams. "I talked to
Kadziola about Poland's participation in Operation 'Market
Garden' during World War II. He verified the (Polish Commanding)
General's name," said Williams, referring to the role
of the 1st Polish Airborne Brigade Commander, Stanislaw Sosabowski,
played by actor Gene Hackman in the movie 'A Bridge Too Far'.
Mutual interests, such as movies, led to discussion and allowed
the soldiers to get to know and appreciate each other. During
one stop, the soldiers demonstrated the operability of their
weapons. The soldiers looked on in amazement as they held
weapons they had only seen before in books or on film.
"That's what I like, just getting to know a soldier from
another country and seeing how we're all the same," said
Williams. The concept of joint patrols was not completely
foreign to Williams, as he had previously trained with Dutch
Marines as a member of the Marine Corps. "A soldier is
a soldier the world over."
It was not Kadziola's first time working with U.S. soldiers."The
American soldiers are very good," he said. In his view
a lot has changed during the course of the past five years.
"Comparing Sarajevo in 1997 to today, it's very different.
It's normal here now," he said. "In 1997, working
here was very dangerous."
The only danger encountered on this mission was the language
"I am the only one who speaks (even) a little English,"
Kadziola said. But by using hand signals, talking slower and
being patient, the soldiers were able to successfully carry
out the mission. "It's absolutely invaluable. Most of
(the American soldiers) have never worked with other nationalities
before today," said Staff Sgt. Karl Petersen, the squad
"So to see them interact and think that 15 years ago
we never would have talked to them or seen them up close;
now they're working side by side. That's a good thing."
Nations of SFOR: US,
SFOR at Work