Elite Forces entertain

Capt. Ian Hamilton
First published June 11, 2003

Operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) exist on trust. Trust between SFOR and a population jaded and distrustful after five years of conflict. On a six-month tour, it can be difficult for soldiers to build a bond of friendship. But those bonds are important for two reasons.

Kotor Varos - First, because the co-operation and help of the local population is instrumental in removing weapons from the general countryside. In the first month of operations, the 1st battalion The Highlanders, the British resident infantry battalion, removed five tonnes of weapons. Much of that was made possible by the relationships that have already sprung up between the British soldiers and the local population.
No scepticism
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly in the long run, the people of BiH are sceptical about the role of SFOR. It's one thing to say that the International Community is here to help reconstruct a safe and secure environment. It's another to prove it when recent memories of foreign soldiers contain vivid memories of death and destruction.
That's where the soldiers of A Company, The Royal Gurkha Rifles, attached to The Highlanders, have made an immediate impact. Maj. Quentin Naylor, 30, from Edinburgh, takes up the story: "We were keen to show the population in our area that the Gurkhas share a lot of common values. Our area is quite rural and hilly - just like the foothills of Nepal. A lot of our soldiers are farmers and we share the same sort of rugged, independent spirit that comes from making a living on the land. We enjoy being over here and value the friendships we've built up and wanted to say "thank-you" to our new friends - that's why we laid on a big show in the biggest town in our area, Kotor Varos."
Free Gurkha curry for all
What better way to say "thank-you" than by performing a display of traditional Gurkha dancing - including the training moves taught to every new recruit in the use of the fearsome Kukhri, the traditional dagger worn by every Gurkha into battle.
It was a day made all the more special by the appearance of the Band of the Parachute Regiment. The Paras were keen to build on a long relationship with their Scottish cousins.
As Capt. Ian Hamilton, 38, from Aberdeen, a Parachute Regiment officer on attachment to the Highlanders explained: "The original war-time 5th Parachute Battalion was drawn from the Cameron Highlanders, one of the present-day Highlander's antecedent Regiments. The Gurkhas have a long Airborne heritage, most recently augmenting 16 Air Assault brigade. Many of the Gurkhas serving with the Highlanders still proudly sport the 'Blue Badge of Courage', their airborne wings."
An enthusiastic crowd gathered as the strains of the theme to 'A Bridge Too Far' echoed around the town square of Kotor Varos. The Gurkhas had gone all out to make friends; distributing free pencils and school bags to children, magazines to teenagers and free Gurkha curry for all!
"It was a great day," enthused Naylor. "Everybody had a lot of fun. The kids really got into the swing of Gurkha dancing - and I think the Paras got a few new marching recruits for the band."
The battalion also used the occasion to mount an Info Ops campaign for an up-coming Op Harvest, the generic name for weapons collection. More importantly, perhaps, friendships were built and progress was made between people of different continents untied by a common desire for peace.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: UK

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