To boldly go where no one has gone before

Sgt. 1st Class Marty Collins
First published in
SFOR Informer#156, January 23, 2003

As part of the recent restructuring in Multinational Brigade North, the Danish Tank Squadron has moved to Eagle Base after serving over seven years at Doboj. It is taking over an area of responsibility formerly maintained by the Americans. The squadron will assume responsibility for patrolling the opstinas (municipalities) of Tuzla, Kalesija, Osmaci and Zvornik.

Tuzla - Danish soldiers have been on numerous patrols with their American counterparts in preparation for the transition. Their motto is: "To boldly go where no one has gone before." One of the villages they visited and patrolled is Jeginov Lug.
Collective Centre
Dogs, cats and chickens are the only traffic on the snow-covered road as the Danish patrol makes its way into the village. People from the collective centre take a peek from windows and cracked doors to examine the convoy. The squadron soldiers wave to women hanging laundry on clothes lines, children sledging, and men working on mud covered automobiles. The village, predominately inhabited by Bosnian-Serbs before the war, still shows the scars of warfare.
"These houses were built from funds by the Danish government," says 1st Lt. Claus Pugholm, tank commander. The Bosniacs living here are all waiting to return to their pre-war homes. After they leave, Bosnian-Serbs will reclaim their homes and move back.
As the convoy stops, children swarm the soldiers. Pfc. Kent Mikkelsen, gunner, is the lucky recipient of all the attention because he is the soldier with the merchandise. "We give out the magazines and drawing books so the children can see that we are here to help them and not to be afraid of us," said Pfc. Mikkelsen.
One of the most important missions on this particular patrol is to establish a local point of contact the soldiers can talk to when they visit the various opsitnas. "It is good to have a point of contact to receive reliable information, if we talk to the same person three or four times then we can make a determination if the information we receive is true or valid," said 1st Lt. Pugholm. As he is meeting with three Bosnian men regarding the situation in Jeginov Lug, an elderly woman wearing galoshes makes her way down a muddy farm road.
Alarmed and upset by the new strangers, she wants to know who these soldiers are and what they are doing here. With the help of an interpreter, 1st Lt. Pugholm explains that the Danes are taking over the patrol area from the Americans and asks how she is doing and if she needs any assistance.
The woman says her husband was killed in the war and has no family left and realises she will have to move in with relatives. She wants to return to Srebrenica where she lived before the war because when the July deadline arrives she will have nowhere to go. 1st Lt. Pugholm tells her he will pass her information along to the Brigade Finnish CIMIC team. But she still looks concerned and worried. Without another word she turns and retraces her steps down the muddy farm road.
"Both the Bosniacs and Bosnian-Serbs are very well aware of each other's situations. The Bosnian-Serbs here today have the certificates for their land, but the former structures stand in ruins," said 1st Lt. Pugholm. Many want to know when the second round of aid from non-governmental organisations will arrive. With bi-lateral meetings between local government agencies, these issues will be addressed. The information is also given to the mayors of the various opstinas.
"We have weekly meetings with the CIMIC and we also go on joint patrols with the CIMIC. That's a very good idea because instead of it merely being a paperwork shuffle the CIMIC can actually see the different cases themselves," said 1st Lt. Pugholm. As the Danish patrol leaves the village of Jeginov Lug, sheep continue to graze from haystacks in a snow-covered field.
Perhaps the defiance is a sign of the struggle of all people in this country, defiant but hopefully tolerant enough. Not all of the people in the village know the faces or uniforms of the Danes, but a few do now. Soon more will be aware as they set out to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Denmark
Restructuring and Reserves

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Photos: Sgt. 1st Class Marty Collins

First Lt. Claus Pugholm, tank commander, Pfc. Kent Mikkelsen, gunner, and Pfc. Soren Huusmann, loader, discuss grid coordinates and patrol routes.

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Capt. Kristoffer Jakobsen, press officer, and Pfc. Kent Mikkelsen, gunner, both of Danish Squadron, give a local boy in the village of Lipovice a SFOR drawing book and magazine.

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First Lt. Claus Pugholm meets with local citizens in the village of Lipovice. The Danish tank squadron has taken over patrol responsibilities from the U.S. due to SFOR restructuring of Multinational Brigade North.