Maj. Christophe Fix
First published in
SFOR Informer#158, February 20, 2003
On Feb. 11 and 12, a multinational CIMIC patrol including
American, Finnish, French and Spanish soldiers delivered donated
clothing items to three orphanages located in the Multinational
Brigade Southeast (MNB-SE). This ended the successful story
of a long humanitarian project, initiated by a member of Multinational
Brigade North (MNB-N), Task Force Saber CIMIC/Civil Affairs
Medjugorje - The charitable initiative began early in Oct.
2002 when US Sgt Joseph Balmos decided to collect children
clothes in the local elementary schools of La Capelle (France).
Balmos got the aid of his French parents in law, Mr. and Mrs.
Roger Chemin, and was supported by a French Algerian War Vet's
association. Generosity and commitment among pupils was so
high that 50 boxes of clothing items eventually were collected.
Chain of solidarity
A real chain of solidarity and of good enabled the items to
be shipped by road and then by a US Air Force plane from Sisonne
(France) to Eagle Base where the freight was unloaded on Jan.
7, 2003. Before entering Germany, half of the load was donated
to local French Red Cross, to be distributed among flood victims
on both side of the border. The 25 remaining cases were taken
to Camp McGovern where they were resorted. Part of the winter
clothes were not intended for being delivered to orphanages;
they were distributed to the Gypsy community of Modricki Lug,
in MNB-N Area of operation, Jan. 22.
Since the Tuzla Orphanage is well supported by Task Force
Eagle, TF Saber CIMIC looked for another institution, which
would benefit from those items. With assistance from CJ9,
HQ SFOR, and contacts with the French CIMIC team from MNB-SE,
three orphanages located near Mostar were identified as the
best possible recipients.
"In consideration that donated items were French, the
idea to help Bosnian-Croat and Bosniac orphanages located
in the MNB-SE under French Brig. Gen. Bernard Oberto's command
was fantastic," said Balmos.
MNB-N TF Saber CIMIC and Finish CIMIC Company provided transportation
assets from Camp Mc Govern to Mostar. "This is the first
time I am taking part in such a mission in favor of orphans;
we added our contribution in distributing some of our famous
road safety reflectors," commented 1Lt. Marko Nurminen
and 2Lt Matti Inkeroinen, both Finnish CIMIC officers.
All items were distributed to approximately 200 orphans living
in Medjugorje, Citluk and Mostar. "On the whole, the
patrol distributed 400 pairs of jeans, 1400 pairs of socks,
100 pairs of gloves, reflectors, blankest and balls,"
added Sfc Gary W. Duhamell, TF Saber CIMIC team leader.
Directors or religious people in charge of the different institutes
always warmly welcomed patrol members. "Today, I have
seen SFOR at its best. I met soldiers in service for peace;
we are all members of a single family in service for peace,"
stated a Franciscan priest in charge of the "Mother's
village" in Medjugorje.
"Most of the 41 orphans we have in this orphanage experienced
very painful events during the war. Your today's action is
like a psychological therapy for our kids, which will help
them to break their fears towards uniforms" concluded
Mrs. Sabaheta Kadic, in charge of the "Egyptian village"
When he nicknamed his plan 'Socks project', Balmos could hardly
imagine the final outcome. "This mission became an example
of the close cooperation and professionalism of the multinational
SFOR Armed Forces. This is also an example of French support
to US military initiatives in BiH," he emphasized in
front of Mostar's orphanage. On Feb. 12, at about noon, the
MNB-N patrol left Mostar and drove back to its base with the
satisfaction of a well-done job. Each orphanage promised to
send a letter of thanks to their French friends in La Capelle,
Buiron-Fosse, Etreaupont, Claifontaine-Sommeron and Rocquigny.
Nations of SFOR: Finland,