'Change of mission' in Suica

2Lt. Melanie Roodenburg
First published in
SFOR Informer#157, February 6, 2003

After thirteen weeks, the units in Suica are rotating. Before Dec. 18, 2002, the first fusiliers of the infantry platoon (unit 6) moved to Bugojno. The complete ‘change of mission’ of the mortar- and infantry platoons took two weeks. A total of 64 soldiers exchanged bases. In place of the mortar-and infantry platoons, one tank platoon and an infantry platoon went to Suit. Three fusiliers of the Alfa-team elaborated on their experiences in Suica during the first half of their mission.

Suica - Due to internal restructuring within the then Multinational Division South West, the twelfth Dutch rotation of SFOR took over the base from the Canadians by Aug. 15, 2002. The area is still relatively new to the Dutch. First Lt. Benjamin Hoeberichts, Commander of the infantry platoon, took over from his predecessor after two months of exploring by SFOR 12. “In the beginning we were primarily busy because of the fact that it was a new area for the Dutch. We took over the available information from SFOR 12 and built on that from there on.”
A vast area
The territory for which the Forward Operating Base Suica is responsible consists is a vast area, comprised wiyh the opstinas (municipalities) of Kupres, Livno and Tomislavgrad. These three opstinas take up approximately 50% of the total area for which the battalion is responsible. “The big difference is that fewer people live here and it takes a lot longer to get to your destination,” Hoeberichts explained.
The area of Bugojno, where they will now carry out patrols, on foot or by vehicle, is six times smaller than the Suica region. Another difference is that the population is entirely different. In Canton 10 the population consists of 95% of Bosnian-Croats, while in Bugojno the different ethnic groups are more evenly represented.
“Bugojno is more diverse. We don't have to travel as long as we had to, so we can give more attention to the people. The differences are more in proportion here. In Canton 10 the Bosnian-Serb Displaced Persons were very much kept back after returning to the area. We had to give them a lot of attention. In Bugojno we can spread our attention. These are the advantages and that is where we have to find the challenges,” Hoeberichts added
Two opposite testimonies
Cpl. Remon Verburg has special memories of his work in Canton 10: “The area in which I patrolled was very poor. There have been severe fights there. People were living in houses - at least if you can still call that houses - made of four walls and gaping holes where the windows and doors were supposed to be. They would gather around an open fire to warm up. Sometimes we brought them things like food. That was really nice, because I felt I was doing something useful.”
Fusilier 1st Class Ronnie Huffmeyer patrolled a completely different area. He compared his experiences to those of Verburg. His story makes clear there are some glaring contradictions in Canton 10: “I patrolled in a fairly wealthy area, near the Croatian border. There was hardly any fighting there during the war. These people did have doors and windows, for example. Some even had roll-down shutters! We didn’t distribute much, really. Well, in the end we did give away a farewell present. The schools we attended in Netherlands gave us some of their old material which we gave to the schools in the patrolling area.”

Related links: SFOR at Work
Nations of SFOR: Netherlands

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Photos: Courtesy of Dutch Battle Group

Burning out of date documents in open air.

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A general overview of the Suica Forward Operational Base, located on the Vlasic Plateau.

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Suica Quick Reaction Force in action.

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Two soldiers from Suica FOB polishing their equipment.