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Winter Assessments

By Sgt. Michael Maddox
First published in
SFOR Informer #97, September 27, 2000

Srebrenica - With a chilly nip in the air during recent nights, making plans for the long winter here is a subject on the minds of everyone - especially, Mehmed Celikovic, the area return leader for Bernice near Srebrenica.
"We have five people here from different families living in the one house, trying to clean up one house as much as possible. Only people who can work are going to stay here through the winter, no children, and no older people," he explained. "We will need food for the people staying this winter. In the beginning we were receiving donations from the Red Cross. They donated like 7,000 cans of food."
"We are working on one house now. We are supposed to start on another, but we have no sand, no cement, the other things that we need to start construction."
These are some of the worries that Celikovic and other returnees are facing as the leaves and the season change. But these people are not on completely on their own, they are getting help from Camp Dobol's Civil Affairs office as they do winter assessments in the villages surrounding Srebrenica.
Three teams, two from Camp Dobol and one from Camp Eagle, are tasked to perform assessments in 300 return sites by the end of September.
"We are doing winter assessments in the area. Checking out all of the return sites that we know about," said Capt. Darryl Smith, a Tactical Support Team leader for the Camp Dobol Civil Affairs. "We are going out and doing a survey to see what the conditions are, how far along they have come with reconstruction, to verify who the area leader is and to see what their prospects of surviving the winter are going to be."
So far, those prospects are looking good as the people are making plans on how to handle the upcoming cold.
"There doesn't seem to be a lot of people that are going to be staying over the winter. Most people will stay if they can get one house or one room winterized so they can ride out the weather," he said. "If they don't have enough building materials to get at least one house built before winter, then they won't stay."
Doing work like the assessments is some times difficult, but very rewarding, said Sgt. Louis Phelps, a Tactical Support Team member.
"It's a lot of work. Sometimes the most difficult part is just finding the area," he said. "The amount of coordination among the local people is just extraordinary. If it weren't for that, it would be much more difficult for us to find everyone."
Phelps added, that he is learning just what the human spirit can accomplish .
"I can't help but respect these people. Even before the war, this probably wasn't the easiest of lives. They survived the war and have come back to pick up the pieces and to try to go on with their lives," Phelps said. "These people need help, they can't do it on their own. I think doing the assessments and getting the information so that we can coordinate with the international community allows them to see what they need to do to help these people."

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