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Task Force Jupiter

By 2Lt Renaud de Quillacq
First published in
SFOR Informer #70, 15 Sept, 1999.

Rogatica - Task Force Jupiter is the name given to the Portuguese contingent in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Based in Rogatica, Republika Srpska, the Portuguese Battalion belongs to the North Brigade of the Multinational Division South-East. It is the second time that Portuguese contribution to SFOR has been provided by the 2nd Airborne Infantry Battalion, one of the Portuguese Independente Airborne Brigade units quartered in San Jacinto, South of Porto. The first tour for the Battalion was in 1996. The first men lived in Rogatica Police office and then moved in the abandoned building of "Hotel Park". Afterwards, the main body arrived. The Portuguese soldiers are still living in the hotel, in the centre of Rogatica.

According to Lt. Co. Antonio Martins, Battalion commander, being present in the heart of the town is a good thing. Being mixed with local population is a token of security, and it gives you a lot of opportunities to get in touch with local culture and to have a better understanding of the situation. Going out in the town is recommended and every week-end a lift is given to a group of 20 soldiers to visit Sarajevo. "This emplacement also allows medical care of the population", adds Lt. Col. Martins, who decided to set up a medical unit nearly on the pavement. "People just have to knock on the door to be examined by a Portuguese doctor."

Portuguese have also a camp in Vitkovici, closed to Goradze, in a former chemical factory. In Zahrid and Jabuka, they have smaller units to provide protection to signal detachments. In Sarajevo, 18 personnel are, amongst other duties, responsible for the Portuguese Support Element in Tito Barracks. The Portuguese contingent has a personnel strength of more than 300. Ninety five percent of officers and NCOs are regular soldiers. Privates are former conscripts, after their four months in accordance with the regulations, they have signed short-term contracts. All of them have been in the army more than one year. The 2nd Airborne Infantry Battalion arrived in Theatre on 10 July, for a six months tour.

The Portuguese area of responsibility stretches over 1,700 square kilometres. There are six administrative areas (opstinas) in it, one in the Federation, five in the Republika Srpska. Besides the usual peace stabilisation missions, the Battalion has two specific missions: one is to maintain area security within two or three kilometres from the Yugoslavian boarder. The other operation consists in controlling tank trucks driving to Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. According to United Nations Resolution 1169 no fuel or military equipment should be exported to FRY. The Portuguese ensure the embargo is in place. The Battalion also operates CIMIC projects. Until now eight of them have been completed.

According to Lt. Co. Antonio Martins, this mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina has two pbjectives: one military, the other humanitarian: "Soldiers have to show their muscles but must behave as gentlemen," he said. According to him, this tour is a good example of the Portuguese capacity to understand a different culture and to communicate. When they arrived in Hotel "Park" in Rogatica, soldiers asked the interpreters to give them conferences about culture, religion and local customs.

Portuguese Paratroopers seem to have inherited this tradition of discovers populations from their XVI century navigators. Under the Battalion arms, you can read a verse of Lus de Cames, the famous Portuguese epic poetry: "Diversos cus e terras temos visto", "Many skies, many lands we have seen".