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 and Herzegovina.

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 effectively.

Santa Claus?
"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 favour.
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'.

Joint patrols
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 barrier.
"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 leader.
"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."

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: US, Poland
SFOR at Work

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Photos: Maj. John Dowling

An U.S. soldier from the 109th Infantry stands guard during a recent joint presence patrol with Polish infantry from the NORDPOL Battle Group. The soldiers were working cooperatively to ensure the recent White Mosque ceremony in Srebrenica was conducted safely.


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First Lt. Darek Sprawka, platoon chief, NPBG, allows Staff Sgt. Karl Petersen, squad leader, Task Force Blue Steel, to examine his weapon during a break in a recent joint patrol in Srebrenica. Interpreter Zeljko Mogic (l.) looks on.


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Soldiers from the U.S. 109th Infantry and the Polish contingent of the Nord-Pol Battle Group pause for a team photo during a recent presence patrol near Srebrenica.


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Sgt. Richard Williams, gunner, Task Force Blue Steel, talks history with Staff Sgt. Darek Kadziola, squad leader, NPBG, before a recent joint patrol at FOB Conner.