Just Another Patrol in Nozicko

Maj Tony Keene GBR A
First published in
SFOR Informer#172, August, 2004

The old man has a merry twinkle in his eye as he approaches the two British soldiers in the small village of Nozicko, near Gradiska in northwest Bosnia. Sgt Dave Turner and Cpl Peter Hawley are a two-person patrol from the Liaison and Observation Team (LOT) in Gradiska, and they are trying to get their bearings. Cpl. Turner is consulting a map.

“Are you lost, just like those Germans?”
Germans? What Germans? There are no German troops in Multinational Task Force Northwest. Cpl. Hawley looks puzzled, as he shakes hands with the elderly man. "Would you like to hear a story?"
Retiring to a nearby coffee shop, they sip small cups of the bitter, strong brew that is a favourite in these parts, the lubricant of Balkan society.
"I am an old man now, but when I was a boy during the war, a German patrol came down the road and stopped here, just like you did, and they asked me for directions to the Sava River. So I told them how to get to the bridge, and they moved on. I wondered if you were lost, just like they were."
Sgt Turner and Cpl Hawley realize they have a unique opportunity here to plumb a source of local knowledge. The LOT teams are spread out across BiH specifically to engage in this sort of personal, one-on-one information gathering. They begin to ply the old man with questions.
"Do you know about the weapons collections operation that is coming up?" they ask. "And do you know about the amnesty policy?"
The old man shrugs. "Of course I do. I listen to Radio Srbac!"
The two British soldiers smile; their LOT team does a regular Monday radio show on that station, to apprise the local population of upcoming police and SFOR joint operations. This proves that it is working.
The conversation wanders off into other areas of community life, including schools and young people, and social and medical facilities.
"Talking to people like this man is part of the job, a big part," Cpl Hawley points out later. "They approach you, more often as not, and as long as you are not pushy you can find out a lot." He and his team are members of a British infantry unit, The Prince of Wales's Own Regiment of Yorkshire. It is one of the first units to be deployed in the LOT function within SFOR.
The coffee is just dregs now, and it is time to go. As they shake hands and bid farewell, the inevitable question comes up.
"By the way, what happened to those Germans? The ones who asked you for directions 60 years ago?"
The old man lays a finger alongside his nose, and his eyes twinkle again. "Ah, well, when they reached the bridge, they were 'sorted out' by the partisans!"
The patrol moves on. Sgt Turner and Cpl Hawley know they and their fellow team members now have another contact in this small community, just south of the Sava River.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: UK

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Patroling the local community with a LOT team.