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You are not alone

By Maj. Juan A. Pina
First published in
SFOR Informer #84, March 29, 2000

Sarajevo- Being miles away from home in a foreign country is not a problem for SFOR nations when it comes to watching and taking care of their troops. But March 16 was a sad day for SFOR and the Spanish contingent when at 8:30 a.m., a Spanish Guardia Civil vehicle slipped off the road on its way from Ilidza to Mostar because of the icy weather conditions. The vehicle turned over several times before stopping at the end of a four meter deep ravine. Three of the SFOR Guardia Civil passengers managed to get out of the car by their own means. Two of them with minor injures were evacuated by the Spanish NSE (National Support Element) to the Ilidza medical post, while the other, seriously injured, was taken by a UN vehicle to the German Hospital in Rajlovac. The accident left a fourth passenger, a Guardia Civil from the UNited Nations International Police Task Force trapped inside the car with spine injuries.
The quick response of the ambulance team and the firemen from Rajlovac proved insufficient, so Multinational Division South East (MND-SE) was requested to provide a crane and a MEDEVAC helicopter which moved the injured man to Rajlovac.
Col. Jose Domenech, DACOS OPS, and Spanish Senior Officer at HQ established a crisis centre in his own office.
1Lt. Mayo from the Spanish Support Unit in Mostar was transported to Rajlovac to give national aid, and by 17:00 Mayo reported that the victim might become a quadriplegic. An urgent evacuation to a hospital with suitable equipment was essential, and time was running out.
The Spanish General Staff and The Army Operations Centre in Madrid was requested for the urgent dispatch of a medical plane with the necessary medical personnel and equipment to evacuated the victim to Spain. Two planes were put at their disposal - one stationed in Spain, and the other taken from a mission in Italy. As the second one was closer to Sarajevo, it was chosen for the transportation.
Co-ordination and synchronisation between the plane and the ambulance arrival at the airport was essential. A mobile phone network was established between the airport and the hospital in Rajlovac. Spanish Maj. Carlos Ysasi from the NAOCC (NATO Air Operations Co-ordination Centre) in SFOR HQ maintained a hot line with the Spanish Air Force Operation Center in Madrid.
DACOS OPS requested to keep the airport open until the evacuation was concluded.
At 02:00. the next morning, the plane took off to Spain, arriving at 04:30, where the victim’s wife and closest relatives were waiting. His condition remains very serious.
While there is an individual and family tragedy at the heart of this series of events, it also serves as a prime example of multinational co-operation with an entire network of people working in a tram to lend support to personnel in difficulty.