By Sgt. Maj. Patrick van de Poele
First published in
SFOR Informer #73
Filipovici - Along SFOR road "Riesling", between Foca and Gorazde, a careful observer will see an arrow directing him towards Filipovici. Following it about a kilometre an SFOR enclosure can be found, tucked in between two hills and surrounded by woods. It is situated in Republika Srpska but within only a few hundred metres of the Inter-Entity Boundary Line (IEBL). The Camp is in the Area of Responsibility (AOR) of the Central Brigade, MND-SE. The camp was set up to shorten transit times for the units patrolling the area. The location chosen was a huge Ammunition and Fuel depot of the Yugoslavian Army. Part of the Depot was cleared away to install the Camp but the remainder is marked as heavily mined and is out of bounds. Many of the installations, including accommodations are built in ex-ammunition bunkers, the rest are in light buildings or containers. All three nations in the Brigade are represented in the camp, which contains three units, a reinforced Infantry Company, a German transmissions unit and a Forward Air Control Unit.
The Company occupying the camp comes from the French Battalion in Rajlovac (BATFRA) and its commander, Capt. Charles-Henry de Besombes, is also the Camp Commandant. His company is the Reconnaissance and Fire Support Company of the 2nd Regiment of Parachutists belonging to the French Foreign Legion and is usually based in Calvi, Corsica. This unit will spend its four-month tour at Filipovici. They arrived in Bosnia and Hercegovina in late July, just in time to participate in the security blanket of the Summit for Stability in the Balkans. They are reinforced by a platoon each of German and Ukrainian Infantry, which rotate about every 15 days. In all the unit numbers more than 200 men depending on the type of platoon sent by the Germans.
In all their have six platoons and they cover an area going from the Pass of Cemerno in the South to the outskirts of Gorazde in the North, from Miljevina in the West to the Montenegrin border in the East. The only town of importance in their AOR is Foca and the most notable points are the Drina valley and the Sutjeska National Park at Tjentiste with its monuments commemorating Tito and the Partisans.
"Our four French platoons work on a rotating base, one is on routine patrols with the Germans and Ukrainians, the second is away on three day recce missions. The third is executing punctual missions such as escorting weapon site inspections, the Entity Armed Forces on exercise or training movements. They also guard SFOR work parties and other organisations, such as OHR, IPTF or ONGs as needed. The fourth Platoon has Camp security and routine communal life tasks." explained the Company XO Capt. Gery de Stabenrath.
The three-day recce missions consist of sending a platoon out for three days. They will check every road and track in a given area as well as checking possible helicopter landing zones. They get to know the local population, reporting on eventual returnee movements and new constructions. It is during these missions that most of the legionnaires have visited Tjentiste.
"We have a very good working relationship with the Germans and the Ukrainians, all our patrols are tri-national. We also use every occasion to create links between the different nations based here at Filipovici," said Capt. de Stabenrath.