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Novi Travnik competes with Sydney

By 1Lt. Kristoffer Egeberg
First published in
SFOR Informer #98, October 11, 2000

Novi Travnik -The German soldier looses his balance as the Federation Army soldier storms past. As the ball hits the net, not far away a group of marksmen squeeze their triggers, sending full metal jackets towards their targets.
In two months, team commander of the Dutch Bravo Team 101 Mechanised Battalion RHPA, Maj. Jack Huijben, together with the rest of the Dutch Battle Group in Novi Travnik, planned and prepared the Novi Travnik Games. The games were a challenge in both sports and military crafts, given to their allied colleagues in the Multinational Division Southwest (MND-SW). The two components of the Federation Army of BiH (ABIH) were invited.
All together six soldier-delegations attended, representing the UK, Czech Republic, Germany, the Federation Army, and of course the Netherlands. Each delegation had specialised teams for each event.
At the Travnik range, the marksmen teams concentrated on hitting targets up to 550 meters away. The targets at Novi Travnik range stood much closer to the competitors in the pistol shooting contest. The fast-legged soldiers had a 12-kilometer road race, and in the sports hall of Novi Travnik, teams battled for goals in the football tournament. Last but definitively not least, soldiers armed with semiautomatic paintball guns slaughtered each other for flags in the newly built paintball field at the Dutch Battle Group base.
"At this moment, the Olympic games in Sydney is going on. Their main thought is that participation is more important than winning. Let this be the main thought at the Novi Travnik Games as well," said Lt. Col. Wouter Sleurink at the opening ceremony. “Bringing soldiers together to achieve mutual respect and understanding was a foreseen victory. Therefore, in the Novi Travnik Games, points and goals are of a less importance.”
"This is a good opportunity for us to meet, and get in better contact with the Bosnian Croat part of our army. You see, in games it is possible, while in politics it is hard," said Bosnian Capt. Grabus Salih from the 7th Mechanised ABIH Brigade in Zenica. "We should do this more often in the future."
That is also the hope of Huijben. The idea for the Novi Travnik games came up during a conversation between him and the former commander of MND-SW, Maj. Gen. Robin Brims.
"We wanted to get the battle groups together and maybe invite the ABIH as well. We did this to create mutual respect and understanding between us," he said. Huijben decided to organise the event, and now, after the success it became, he wants to pass the torch on to his successor.
"This is a beginning and I hope we can continue. Maybe one event each mission, which means two events each year," he said.
The games ended with a barbecue in the Dutch base. All delegations were treated as winners and awarded a plaque for their efforts in making the day memorable. In sporting terms, a hat-trick was achieved by overcoming the challenges in sports, military discipline, and creating mutual respect between the parties.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Netherland
EAF professionalisation