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Portuguese support

By Sgt. Michael Maddox
First published in
SFOR Informer #96, September 13, 2000

Banja luka - With Operation Strong Lion / Strong Guardian kicking off for the UK Battle Group Aug. 29, a little help was needed to make the operation go as smoothly as possible. To aid in this endeavor, the Portuguese Opertional reserve Force in Visoko was called upon to help maintain security while British soldiers were on exercise in Glamoc.
It was a situation of one neighbour asking another for a favour, said Capt. Jose Lopes, operations officer for the Portuguese Battle Group.
"It is like when you go on holiday or a trip and you ask your neighbour to watch your home," he said. "We are glad to be able to come in and provide them with support."
It may be a neighbourly task, but it was one that took quite a bit of work and planning in several phases, said Lopes.
"On Aug. 24, we established communication and received the patrols plan from the UK Battle Group. We then developed a concept of operations," he said. "We started the second phase of operations with the commander's reconnaissance with the company commanders and the platoon leaders Aug. 25-26. They did a recon of all of the areas that we were to occupy.
"We deployed two rifle companies to Banja luka Aug 27-28. The main body of them moved at midnight Aug. 28 and travelled all night," explained Lopes. "The movement went well, it was very hard to start movement at midnight until 9 a.m. but we didn't have any problems with our vehicles or our guys. It's a long road, more than 200 kilometers, so of course they are tired."
"After that, there was a transfer of authority at noon Aug. 29. We then started our operations," added Lopes.
Those operations included several aspects of security in Banja luka with one of the main tasks being patrols.
"We are patrolling Banja luka to monitor things like police and refugee activities, gathering information to inform the command," said Staff Sgt. Jose Dinis, a platoon sergeant for the Portuguese Battle Group. "We are mainly here to make a presence in the community."
The soldiers are glad to take on this job.
"It's good for us because we can continue the work of the UK soldiers," he said. "It's a good experience for the soldiers."
The Portuguese transferred the job back to the UK soldiers Sept. 1 and then redeployed to Visoko for phase five of the operation. Lopes said overall, the work his soldiers had performed in Banja luka brought many good lessons.
"I think they have gained much experience," he said. "We have been deploying around the MND for the past couple of weeks, and I think this will be a highlight of that for the soldiers.
"It is a good experience working with different countries and different procedures. Every country has it's own procedures and we can learn things that are good for everybody, the soldiers, the staff, the company commanders," added Lopes.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Portugal
Related articles: Polish support, Operation Strong Guardian
Exercices and training