Same mission, another team

Capt. Constantin Spinu
First published in
SFOR Informer#156, January 23, 2003

The NORDPOL Battle Group (NPBG) is history now. The last Commander of NPBG, Col. Tadeusz Sapierzynsky, Polish Army, handed over his Command to Lt. Col. Lima Pinto, Portuguese Army. Lt.Col. Pinto is now the Commanding Officer of the new Multinational Battle Group (MNBG) for the next six months. This MNBG is comprised of 650 soldiers: 274 from Poland, 290 from Portugal and 86 from Slovenia. The new MNBG is taking over the former NPBG traditions and heritage.

Doboj - On Jan. 5, just two days after the ceremony marking the official transition of Multinational Division North (NMD-N) to Multinational Brigade North (MNB-N), the NPBG made the transition to the MNBG. It was a moment to welcome the newcomers (even though Portugal and Slovenia have been Troop Contributing Nations to SFOR since 1996 and 1997) and to pay tribute to the nearly decade-long commitment of the Nordic and Baltic States, which preceded them.
A little piece of history
The first Nordic Contingent took up his duty in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in 1993 as part of United Nations Protection Force. Norwegian, Danish and Swedish troops deployed near Tuzla, supported by Finland. In 1996, to meet the growing NATO requirement, Poland joined the force, which expanded to become the well-known Nordic-Polish Brigade. Three years ago today, the three Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) joined the club. The NPBG was born, with seven nations in all: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Sweden.
Portuguese Army also has a long record of service in BiH. In 1996, Portugal dispatched 900 troops to take part in the post-GFAP (General Framework Agreement for Peace) Implementation Force (IFOR). Up until 1999 the Portuguese Contingent was integrated into the Italian Brigade in Multinational Division Southeast. Then, they became the all-important theatre-wide Operational Reserve (OPRES) until the end of 2002.
Slovenia, too, has been a long-time partner of SFOR. From a Helicopter Squad in 1997, to Military Police in 1999 and a Medical Unit in Butmir in 2000, Slovenia has added the Motorised Infantry Company, which joins the new MNBG.
Easier and harder
Serving as a peacekeeper is always a valuable experience. This is something that everyone, coming or leaving, agreed with. Pvt. Dorthea Diderichsen, Danish Army, stated: "I'm leaving after almost six months and I can say I've learned how to approach people from different countries. We had to work as a team and we did it." And Pvt. 1st Class Maciej Pierchlak, Polish Army, confirmed: "It was great. I have so many good memories from here. We were like a family, no matter the nationality or rank"
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were rotating every six months as components of the NPBG. Recently, it was the turn of Latvia to be deployed. 1st Lt. Gailis Ervin, Latvian Army, considers his presence here as a great challenge: "This is no training in a class, using a map or a computer. Everything is for real and this experience I've gained here will be very important for my career."
At the time of the ceremony, Slovenia had just started to deploy troops. Therefore, on behalf of the 'newcomers', 1st Lt. Angelo Simoes, Portuguese Army, said: "This new mission is easier and harder in the same time, compared to the previous one. Easier because as OPRES we had to move a lot, to be able to perform a various types of tasks at a short notice anywhere in BiH. Now we are focusing missions to a concise Area of Responsibility (AoR). But also harder, because we have to get familiar with the new AoR in a very short time. The new Portuguese Contingent will arrive soon and we have to be able to hand over the tasks efficiently."

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Slovenia, Portugal, Poland
Restructuring and Reserves

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Photos: Sgt. Laurent Pontillon

Commander of the MNB-N, U.S. Brig. Gen. John Von Trott (middle) together with the former Commander of the NPBG, Polish Col. Tadeusz Sapierzynsky (l.) and Commander of the newly created MNBG, Portuguese Lt. Col. Lima Pinto, salute the NPBG and MNBG troops.

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The Commander of MNB-N is handing over the flag of MNBG to the new Commanding Officer.

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Polish Col. Sapierzynsky is handing over the same mission to a new team.