Out and about in the
By Capt. Sylvester Mackensen
First published 20 March, 2003
On the perimeter road on the west side of Camp Rajlovac,
it is 06:30 a.m. After a long break, Staff Sgt. Reichmeier
and his soldiers from 1.4 Patrol are making preparations to
return to their 'old' area. Exercises 'Paladin' and 'Joint
Resolve' (SFOR Informer #158
and #159) took a
lot of the soldiers from 1 German Task Force Company to new
mission areas in the recent weeks. The people in the Gorazde
Corridor noticed it, too. The otherwise regular calls were
not paid. Today two 'Wolves' are again leaving the camp to
carry out their usual missions.
Trnovo - The mountain slopes in the Sarajevo basin are still
shrouded in morning mist; the sun is slowly scaling the peaks
in orange and pink light. There is a special reason for Reichmeier
turning up for duty so early this morning.In addition to gathering
information by talking to local people and demonstrating SFOR
presence in the area, the patrol has a mission from the Multinational
Brigade Southeast to accomplish today. The Federation Army
is conducting basic training at Camp Vrtace. A weapons check
is planned to make sure that the number of weapons specified
in the notification tallies with the arsenal actually there.
Training of the Bosnian recruits
It takes the patrol just under an hour to reach its destination.
The route takes them over long passes up into the mountains.
Through dark and snow-covered valleys, past sun-flooded peaks,
until they finally reach the camp. It is under a half metre
of snow. When the patrol gets there, the 35 recruits have
already fallen into formation. Reichmeier first checks the
number of weapons and items of training equipment - it is
correct. Now there is time to talk to the company commander,
Capt. Smajlovic. Since this is the third time the patrol has
been up there, the atmosphere is relaxed and cordial.
Over a filjan (small cup) of coffee, Smajlovic talks about
the training that the recruits are being put through and the
situation at Camp Vrtace: "The soldiers are young and
the climate is rough. Ten men have already been withdrawn
due to illness. One went down with fever and yesterday we
had to take him to Gorazde. Shortly afterwards, another recruit
had a series of asthma attacks. We could see SFOR helicopters
in the sky above us, but we unfortunately did not have any
means of contacting them. Up here in the mountains there is
only one medical vehicle. All we could do was wait until the
police arrived to take him to the nearest hospital. "Perhaps,
we can co-operate a bit more?" the company commander
asks, going on to say: "I like to see SFOR calling in
on us; you are always welcome."
Fitness to fight
Reichmeier would like to know what training the soldiers receive
and hears that the term of compulsory military service in
Bosnia and Herzegovina is six months, two of which being devoted
to basic training. This kind of training is the same for soldiers
in all the armed services. After that, they undergo specific
assignment-related training. "I have too few NCOs,"
Smajlovic complains. "Next week, training will be provided
in how to act and react in battlefield, how to establish contact,
how to use a map and a compass, and how to administer first
The patrol moves to the training area, a plateau - at an altitude
of almost 1,500 metres - where the snow is still very deep.
Reichmeier briefs his men: "Our orders are to report
on the training, the discipline and command and control of
the unit and to assess its fitness to fight." Training
in battlefield conduct and forms of manoeuvre is under way
on a patch of open terrain.
Cpl. Olaf Hain spots the differences straightaway: "The
line of troops does not withdraw in two sections like we do;
the soldiers fall back one by one." In the background
each recruit can be heard shouting "Pokrivaj" (cover)
to notify that he is about to move to another position. Nearby,
the soldiers from the patrol strike up conversations with
the instructors. Later, during a break for a cigarette, they
talk to the Bosnian conscripts. They, too, are relaxed, but
respectful, and are interested in the G36 rifle.
School and Medical centre
But that is not the patrol's only mission today. It moves
on to Delijas, a small village in which less than 200 people
live. The patrol's job here is to distribute copies of the
magazine 'Mirko' and bring utensils to the school. When the
'Wolves' pull up in front of the building, the children are
playing football in the playground. They rush to the fence
straightaway. Reichmeier calls out to them, "Dobar dan.
Kako ste?" A female teacher welcomes him. The corridors
are cold. "We are the only school in the canton that
has not got proper heating," she says.
Here again, the patrol leader talks to members of the staff
and pupils in a relaxed atmosphere. The 35 children at the
school start to learn English in their second year of schooling
and German in their fifth. The schoolbooks are then handed
out and the children head off again down the icy corridors.
In the classrooms, the younger children are thrilled to receive
the things. Reichmeier asks where he can find the chairman
of the local council, and the patrol is off again.
As they are leaving the school, the soldiers run into the
nurse from the medical centre in Delijas. She tells them that
the centre is short of bandages, medicines and rubber gloves.
There is also a shortage of blood sugar test strips. These
are needed because there are a lot of elderly people here
with diabetes. The medical centre in Trnovo cannot procure
200KM a month
The patrol leader says good-bye and proceeds to the mosque,
but he does not encounter anyone there. One local resident
tells him that there is no imam and that Zajko Kantana takes
care of everything. Someone is sent from Sarajevo for special
occasions. Reichmeier finally visits the charcoal works, a
bit out of the way, in a small sunny branch of the valley.
There is no one to be seen at the charcoal kilns, which smell
of cold smoke. But an elderly man then comes along and asks
what the patrol would like to know. He recounts that he worked
in the woods for 30 years, but that he does not have the physical
strength to do so any more. So he is now employed at the charcoal
works and earns 200KM (about 100 US$ or Euros) a month.
With these impressions, the soldiers leave Delijas and drive
back through their patrol area to Rajlovac, for the report
has to be written to allow the information obtained to be
passed on. But it will not be long before they are out and
about again, showing presence and providing the local people
a little more help.
Nations of SFOR: Germany
SFOR at Work