Errant Knights in Spanish AOR
CPO Ralf Mumm
First published in
SFOR Informer#158, February 20, 2003
The word Paladin is of French-Italian origin, but it was
one German Task Force Company from Rajlovac and a Spanish
Marine Infantry platoon that took part in Exercise 'Paladin'
last week. The 'errant knights' (as the word Paladin means)
had orders to practice re-deployment of forces from the German-Italian
Battle Group into the French-Spanish Battle Group.
Mostar - At 06:00 a.m., the operations centre of the Multinational
Brigade Southeast raised an alarm. The German Task Force Company
received orders to reinforce the Spanish marine forces in
their AOR. This AOR lies Southeast of Mostar, in Republika
Srpska (RS), near the border with Croatia and Montenegro.
Shortly after 08:00, the column set off for the first stop
in Mostar. At the same time, two reconnaissance parties left
for separate mission areas; Master Sgt. Josef Wagmann deploying
to the south and Master Sgt. Franz-Xaver Need to the north.
Bad weather conditions
Twenty soldiers were planned to be redeployed by air. So at
08:15, four machines from the Italian Detachment took off.
At Jablanica Pass, not far from Mostar, the bad weather forced
the machines to turn and fly back. A second attempt, launched
at around 10:00, likewise failed. Pfc. Marcel Düber from
'Radio Andernach' was on board. His account of the flights
reads as follows: "As soon as we approached the mountain
range, the clouds thickened and the peaks disappeared. The
gusty wind made the going though for the pilots." It
was impossible to fly on and the soldiers faced a four-hour
The two reconnaissance parties did not have an easy time either.
Wagmann and his men arrived in Duzi in pouring rain. The second
reconnaissance party, led by Need, also had to contend with
the weather when it arrived in the specified area in the north.
There was more than a metre of snow near Nevesinje. Much too
deep to set up tents and pitch a camp.
The scene was the same at Plana, which the men reached at
around 11:00 p.m. So they headed back for Mostar, finally
arriving at around 02:00 in the morning. During the reconnaissance
tour, a Fuchs armoured transport vehicle got bogged down in
the snow. It took three hours to get it moving again. Everything
available, from tent poles to tarpaulins, was used to clear
the ice and snow off the Fuchs. Unfortunately, the vehicle
was damaged during the complicated recovery operation, resulting
in spare parts having to be fetched from Mostar and fitted
on the spot.
Diversity of languages
Meanwhile, the bulk of the Company, under the command of Capt.
Jan Hildenbrand, arrived in Mostar at around 2:00 p.m., soaked
to the skin after six hours on the road. They only found a
draughty, unheated equipment tent. After setting up their
camp beds, they made a first attempt to dry their wet gear
and joined the French and Spanish soldiers. Then the first
combined Spanish-German patrol set out. After 30 minutes,
the first incident occurred: a tipsy car driver crashed head-on
into the Spanish Hummvee as he overtook another vehicle. While
the civilian vehicle could be written off, the Spanish soldiers
noted only minor damage to their vehicle.
The diversity of the languages then used to report the accident
was most interesting. There was the car driver, the Bosnian
police and the Spanish soldiers. The interpreter translated
from Bosnian into German; a German soldier put everything
into English for a Spaniard. He then passed it on to a radio
operator, who finally reported in Spanish.
During the next two days, combined patrols were out day and
night. Being out and about for an average of some six hours
a day and covering distances of up to 250km is a strenuous
job. In time, the German soldiers got to know the AOR of their
fellow soldiers from Spain: one of the musts for deploying
quickly and effectively if needed and providing support for
the forces in place.
On Friday, the whole company returned to Rajlovac, worn out,
but willing to spend the weekend going through again the lessons
learned from Exercise Paladin.
Nations of SFOR: Germany
Training and Exercises