MNAAvBn disbanded in Ploce
Lt. Antonio Ruiz González
First published in
SFOR Informer#151, November 7, 2002
This beautiful city on the Dalmatian coast has been home
for men and their helicopters since 1995. First as UNPROFOR,
then IFOR and now SFOR the Army Aviation airmen have been
stationed here, constantly and steadfastly accomplishing the
missions assigned to them. Lt. Col. (French Army) Hubert Figeat
was the last commander of the 'Salamandre' Battalion, also
called Multinational Army Aviation Battalion (MNAAvBn).
Ploce - "Our missions were to provide rapid movement,
and occasionally fire support, to the troops of Multinational
Division South-east (MND-SE). To be able to heli-transport
an infantry company anywhere in the Area of Responsibility
of the division and also to carry out casualties evacuation
within 30-minutes notice by day and one hour by night",
46,000 flying hours
The unit achieved a record of more than 46,000 flying hours
with some 237 casualties' evacuated. These hours were shared
out among the different types of helicopters and detachments,
since the battalion had two outposts, one in Ploce with the
Headquarters equiped with French and Spanish Helicopters and
the one other in Rajlovac, with French, German and Italian
"We also took part in different activities with our
divisional troops, such as border and boundary surveillance,
support to the battle groups and other operational, logistic
and humanitarian actions," explained Maj. Régis
Mange, MNAAvBn S3 Operations.
The battalion comprised of several kinds of aircraft, all
with different nicknames, as is usual in the aviation world.
There was a huge German CH-53 G called 'Lili' and 'Twiggy'
the smallest BO-105 . Also the French transport helicopters
the SA-330 Puma 'Buffalo' along with the attacker SA-342 Gazelle
'Scorpion'. As well as Italian light AB205 'Spin' and Spanish
transport AS532 UL Cougar 'Aguila'. All of them working together
under the same command and with the same goal.
As said by Spanish Army Aviation Capt. José Galvañ
Bonmatí, liaison officer in the Battalion, "We
run all helicopters operations in the division and in order
to integrate into the unit it was not necessary to change
the common procedures, they are almost the same."
The end of a unit
During the time the Battalion was operating, they performed
more than 15,000 flight missions. Many different performances
in all of them, from firing with small weapons during IFOR
(Implementation Force, from Dec. 1995 to Dec. 1996, to supporting
the officials during the elections in the country. All in
all, only one fatal accident with one airman killed in action
when a 'Scorpion' crashed into the sea off the coast of Ploce
during a test flight on Jan. 20, 2002.
MNAAvBn was disbanded in a touching ceremony where German
and French troops said goodbye to Bosnia and Herzegovina,
flying back to their countries. From now on there will be
two helicopter detachments within MND-SE but without constituting
the same unit. The Italian 'Spin' in Rajlovac and the Spanish
'Aguila' in Mostar will be the wings of the division.
French Army Aviation Staff Sgt. Frederik Legrain was a pilot
with 'Buffalo' squadron in Ploce. "I spent eleven months
in Split in this kind of mission and now another tour in Ploce.
We had more chances to fly around here, training with our
helos. That's great for a pilot," said Legrain, a member
of the 5th RHC (Combat Helicopter Regiment) from Pau, South
of France, which was the same regiment that implemented the
first mission there in 1995.
Nations of SFOR: France,
SFOR at Work