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Air operations in Ploce

By Sgt. Michael Maddox
First published in
SFOR Informer #98, October 11, 2000

Ploce - Set on the coastline of the Adriatic Sea, the camp in Ploce, Croatia may at first seem like the perfect spot to take a short vacation. But in reality it is a main hub that provides helicopter operations and support for the soldiers of Multinational Division Southeast.
To fulfill that multinational mission, it takes a multinational team, said 1st Lt. Jean-Marc Rebot, the air coordination officer for the Light Army Aviation Battalion in Ploce.
"We provide air transport and air operations to the MNDSE. All participating nations in the MND have helicopters here in one battalion," he explained. "We have three squadrons here in Ploce, two French and one Spanish, and two squadrons in Rajlovac, the Italians and the Germans."
Staying on top of all of the flights throughout MNDSE is a busy job, but well worth the effort, said Maj. Heiner Christenn, the liaison officer in Ploce for the German helicopter squadron in Rajlovac.
"We have to organise flights for the squadrons. We have our missions from Mostar and then we have to disseminate them to the various squadrons, assign them, organise air traffic control, prepare for exercises, we are always very busy," he said. "We also coordinate the air space control. This is a very important part of our job here because we also do this for Rajlovac."
"Even though life is very busy, occasionally you will have a day off where you can have permission to go out to the beach for the afternoon. In the summer, it's very attractive to get to go out in Ploce," added Christenn.
And it is the weather that makes Ploce an excellence spot for the air operations compared to other locations in the MND, said Rebot.
"Ploce is a good place for helicopters because of the weather. In Mostar, you can't have helicopters because there is a special wind that can flow up to 80 knots. For us, it's not possible to keep helicopters in Mostar," he said. "In winter here, we can keep on flying and make missions to Dubrovnik and other parts of Croatia and the southeast area. If our copters were in Sarajevo, that would not be possible because of the weather. In Sarajevo, the cloud ceiling is often very low."
Rebot said besides having the great weather and the coast so close, there are other good points to working in Ploce with the other nations.
"It's very pleasant environment working with the other countries here," he said. "My friends who are doing the same job in France want to come here because of the great atmosphere."
Christenn said he has learned a lot from his multinational partners.
"When you are always working with your own people, you tend to see only your way of doing things. Here you see other ways of other armies," he said. "They solve the same problems in different ways and sometimes these ways are better than the ones you have learned. If you are open-minded, you can really profit from your time here."

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: France
Helicopters in SFOR