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Italians in Rogatica

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

Rogatica - While most of the soldiers in the Italian Battle Group live in Sarajevo at Tito Barracks, there is one company of Italian soldiers who are charged with a special mission in the town of Rogatica.
They have been given the task of providing patrols and security in the area, but the mission entails several other duties as well, said 2nd Lt. Gianluca Fontana, a platoon commander for the 21st Company "Alpini".
"The period here is divided into different activities. One platoon is outside on patrol, one is acting as guard and security, and another platoon stands by like a quick reaction force if needed. The fourth platoon is a calvary platoon, they come from Sarajevo each week and they are also used as a quick reaction force in certain places," explained Fontana. "Right now, my platoon is responsible for the security here and the other part of our camp in Zahrid."
"For the patrols, we are covering a critical sector of the Italian Battle Group's area." he said. "There are no problems. We have to check some places to help the police, check on refugees to maintain security.
"These patrols are not just about security, they are also used for humanitarian aid like bringing food and water. There is a good cooperation because we have good contacts in Italy to bring materials here," said Fontana. The life in the nearby camp in Zahrid may not have all of the comforts of the main camp, but it's still good duty said WO Carlo Pisani.
"We guard the Italian and French signal stations here in Zahrid along with French soldiers," said Pisani. "It's very important to the mission of Rogatica and Sarajevo.
"Life here is quite good. We stay about one week before we change with another group. Before, we lived in tents, now we have structures to live in. Staying here or in Rogatica camp is the same, the conditions are good here too," he added.
Fontana said his soldiers enjoy their work in Rogatica despite being far from the Italian Battle Group headquarters in Sarajevo.
"This is the first time my platoon comes out to the area to visit people. It is very interesting. It's very exciting to help people and to understand what happened here some years ago and what we can do to help," he explained. "For me, it's easy to be here because it's not my first time to go somewhere. I like staying here because I can learn the way of thinking of the people, the way of living. A lot of my soldiers are still young, 19, 20 years old, they can also learn from these people."
Along with all of the work the soldiers are already tasked with, there is still room to do more for the local citizens, said Fontana.
"I am creating another project with the nursery school here. Yesterday we paid all of the debts for food they had for two months," he said. "I am starting a project to give them contact with Italians because my sister and my mother are teachers. I spoke with my mother and the director of the school and they said it will be possible. I am also trying to start a project to bring winter coats to the children."

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Italy
SFOR at Work