Bulgarians at Bugojno

Lt. Anne-Claude Gouy
First published in
SFOR Informer#154, December 19, 2002

At Camp Butmir, everyone is used to seeing Bulgarian soldiers providing security at the two entrances where they check personnel identification and vehicle passes. They also patrol the camp during the day and night in order to maintain a safe and secure environment for the SFOR Headquarters. The Bulgarian soldiers are full members of SFOR, and they also perform other roles within Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in addition to the now familiar role at Butmir. There is a group of Bulgarian soldiers stationed in Bugojno.

Bugojno - Even if the military base in Bugojno is called the Dutch base, one must not forget that there are not only Dutch soldiers there. In addition to the Romanian platoon (see SFOR Informer No 151), there are a number of Bulgarian soldiers who work day by day on the camp. First Lt. Nikolay Trifonov is the commander of the Bulgarian infantry Platoon that is comprised of 34 soldiers.
Good relations with the locals
"This is the first mission for me and for my platoon in BiH. We have been given extensive training to prepare us for our work here. We went to the Netherlands for 2 months and then we took part in a big exercise with the Dutch Battle Group (NLBG)" said Trifonov. The platoon is responsible for a number of different tasks that are divided between its three sections. They conduct 15 to 17 weekly patrols, provide security for the camp and also take part in SFOR information campaigns. "We take part in patrols for social reasons and to exchange information. We also participate in patrols to collect weapons. We have really good relations with the locals, particularly with the school director. We make about three patrols per week to the school in order to see how things are progressing between the children, and to give them some things" said Trifonov. "Do you know why we've got such a good relationship? Because we don't take any visible weapons when we go on our patrols" added 2Lt. Galin Ganchev, the interpreter from the Bulgarian platoon.
Sunny days and happy people
Several drawing sheets are laid on the desk of Trifonov. The platoon's commander is very proud to show these to me as he explains: "It was a sort of competition in a school. The children had to draw what they think about SFOR. Five years ago, all the drawings were about mines, destroyed houses, war and so on. Now, we should be happy to see the result of our work here because the children express a lot of things in their drawings." In fact, most of the drawings show flowers, beautiful refurbished houses, sunny days and happy people.
Another part of the Bulgarian mission relies on one person: Capt. Dushko Minev who is a doctor. His task is to take care of the soldiers' health but he also helps local people and provides support to the Dutch medical team. "I often help my Dutch colleagues. For example, when they are out of Bugono, I'm the doctor of the base. Here I feel really useful, as I'm working as a real doctor, not just a medical team manager" said Minev.
So in addition to having good relations with the locals, the Bulgarian platoon also enjoy really good relations with the NLBG. "We've got a different way of leading people, but we try to overcome these differences. Of course there is a Dutch liaison officer, Lt. Mark van Den Broek, who can help me in many situations. It would be great to mention him because he's a really, really good officer" emphasised Trifonov. Isn't this the best sign of equality between all the nations who work in SFOR?

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Bulgaria

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Photos: Sgt. Laurent Pontillon

The children's drawings show that, thanks to SFOR soldiers, mines and destroyed houses have been replaced with sunny days.

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After each patrol, work goes on to prepare everything for the next one.

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Sgt. Dimitar Dimitrov, section commander is ready for another mission.