Building searched in response to threats

Master Sgt. Jörg Wagner
First published in
SFOR Informer#159, March 6, 2003

An apartment building on an SFOR route. Nothing unusual - at first sight. But things are not quiet as they seem. The fact is that SFOR soldiers on patrol have been shot at several times from this building, most recently on Tuesday, Feb. 11. Since this poses a definite threat to SFOR personnel, orders were issued for the building to be searched. The apartment in question is on the second floor, and this complicates matters. But the operation has been meticulously planned.

Rajlovac - It is Wednesday, Feb. 12. Vehicles roll up at the helipad. A convoy is formed, headed by two 'Fuchs' (Armoured Transport Vehicle) and a 'Luchs' (Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle) from 1.3 Patrol of the German Task Force Company. Behind them, two Volkswagen Synchro 4WD, the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) team and an MMT (Mobile Medical Team). Local police and European Union Police Mission (EUPM) personnel are also there. The force commander then issues his orders to co-ordinate the action to be taken by the elements assigned to conduct the search operation.
Security positions
The forces quickly approach the house. The armoured vehicles manoeuver into their fixed positions in the security disposition. The patrol leader, Staff Sgt. Volker Wenzel orders his 'Fuchs' crew to dismount - each member knowing exactly what he has to do. Immediately after leaving their vehicle, the men take up their ordered security positions. Wenzel reports back to the officer in charge of Military Police operations and the Officer in Command: "Interior cover in place, ready for action." The search can start.
Six military policemen, accompanied by four soldiers covering them as well as local policemen and EUPM officers, dashed to the entrance of the building. While the men from the Task Force Company cover the staircase and the apartment door, the MPs ask the occupants to open the door. Voices can be heard from inside, then someone asks: "What do you want?" Again, the people are asked to open the door. A man finally opens it and is told that, since SFOR personnel have been fired at from this apartment several times, most recently on Tuesday, a search would now be conducted in order to rule out any further threat to SFOR.
Escalation of violence
Once they have received permission to enter the apartment, MPs move like lightning to check that the rooms are all clear. While they systematically search room after room, shouting can be heard on the stairs. From the apartment on the ground floor, angry relatives of the family try to disrupt the search. They insult the soldiers and even threaten to hit them. But the men calm them down and the operation can be continued unhampered.
The suspect, visibly irritated by the rumpus on the stairs, goes on and on at the MPs. Since they are unable to calm him down with words, they are forced to arrest him, causing his wife to suffer a collapse. The husband is immediately led out of the apartment, while his wife is given first aid. The doctor with the MMT is alerted and takes over shortly afterwards.
As the woman is being treated (her fainting fit was only faked), the situation takes a critical turn. The MPs discover four automatic weapons and a hand grenade, its clip secured only by a piece of wire. The apartment is cleared immediately and everyone is moved out of the danger zone. The EOD team takes charge of matters and the patrol reports the find to the Officer in Command. The arrested man is handed over to the local police for further questioning.
This marked the end of the exercise. Its aim was to improve interaction between the elements employed in searching buildings and to harmonise their operational doctrines.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Germany
Training and Exercises

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Photos: Sgt. Lars Elstermann

The commander of the patrol, Staff Sgt. Wenzel (r.), led the exercise.

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Military Policemen talk with the residents through the door before entering the flat.

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'Fuchs' crews provided external security near the building.

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One German soldier is watchful to avoid unexpected surprises from upstairs.