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 bus journey.
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.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Germany
Training and Exercises

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Photos: CPO Ralf Mumm

Joint display of weapons and armoured vehicles from the French, German and Spanish contingents.

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Spanish Lt. Andrés (r.) explains his German mate (l.) main details about the joint reconnaissance patrol.