To the Drina and Konjuh

13 - 19 Apr 1996

Sat 13 Apr

Sleep in until 0915. Miller and Hadrick get in at 1000. We talk about the UNHCR meeting. Scott tells me quietly that we may leave 7 June, an prediction that turned out to be correct, though I am careful not to get my hopes up. then we get a visit from the new IPTF (International Police Task Force) team in town: two Americans, George McClellan and Cliff Baker, two Indians, Kapoor and Chaubey, and their Hungarian superiors from Zvornik. It turns out we meet some very good friends. George in particular is a distinguished looking older man with white hair and beard, and we connect instantly when it turns out he majored in geology in college.

The afternoon is quiet. I nap 1200-1330, Scott sleeps most of the afternoon; he's really behind on sleep. Roger is down with some kind of bug and was also out. I have radio watch at 0300 so, with the place quiet, I turn early at 1930.

Sun 14 Apr

I pull radio watch 0300-0600. We get three inches of snow! I sleep until 0845, then Hadrick and I hike in to check reports of road damage on the south edge of town. It's natural erosion and the road is still better than most of the roads around here. The village representative who showed us the damage had us over to his house for coffe and umasica, a honey-soaked cake. Delicious. Today is Orthodox Easter and will be a major food day, it turns out.

We get back at noon. Barb Miller has come up from Olovo; she and Scott join us to go over to Mladen's. We have been invited to Easter dinner, a delicious spread of soup, stuffed cabbage leaves, chicken, potatoes, and three pastries. Bojana, Mladen's 16-year-old sister is there along with her mother and baby brother. Mladen's mother may be the last Communist on the planet. We get back to Diane about 1500. It's cold and damp all day.

Roger is still ill but has SOG from 1300 to 1900. I'm off radio watch tonight.

Mon 15 Apr

We convoy to Demi at 0630. I call Shawn. She tells me the phone bill last month was $300 (many people went a lot higher than that!) At 0900 we leave for Vlasenica. Scott and Hadrick go to the mayor. I stay with the vehicles; the last time I saw the mayor I had bad news, and he probably doesn't want to see me for a while. Then we go to Milici. the mayor's not in. Scott visits the hospital and reschedules a visit for Dr. Kaplan. It was on for today but Kaplan couldn't make it. We have a box of candy bars, a gift of Hilary Clinton when she visited Bosnia. We drop them off with the priest.

Roger stays at Demi on sick call; he has a sinus infection.

We have snow squalls off and on all day, and it's cold. It starts snowing on the way back from Milici, heavy, wet stuff. We have to stop repeatedly and clear the packed snow off the windshields. By the time we get back to Demi, three inches have fallen. We get to Demi at 1600, stay for Command and Staff, finally get back at 2200.

Now that Demi has decent places to wait, Command and Staff isn't such a problem. There are TV rooms now and the chaplain has a reading room. Waiting for hours in a vehicle in the parking lot was no fun.

Tues 16 Apr

Occasional snow all day, heavy in the morning. George and Roger head for Milici at 0630, get to LA Pat and turn back because of the snow. Briscoe makes them get chains (maybe necessary for good ole boys from the South but hardly for Wisconsin drivers, besides, we've driven in worse here without them!)

The IPTF guys drop in and out all day. They're nice guys and we give them a few extra maps. DOD civilians Bob Camp and Bob Dragonette drop in at 1100 to deal with the land issue. These guys are also pretty nice, and a lot more reasonable than I had anticipated. At 1300 we all, plus LT Bishop, convoy down to the mayor's office. Begin and Hrnic are all there. Camp and Dragonette explain the problem and promise that all existing contracts will be honored. That takes most of the steam out of the problem, but they stress that future contracts must be in pfennigs per year, not month. The mayor is one of the people affected and he's not too happy. He says he won't sign, his land has already been used (true) and damaged (sort of true, but the next plowing will fix it) and IFOR will have to vacate his land and repair it. The upshot: Bob I and Bob II promise to pass the problem up their chain to Hungary to see if their superiors will approve the last few remaining contracts at the old rate.

Wed 17 Apr

Cold and rainy. Snow line at 500 meters. Demi is above that but Sekovici is below. We're out at 0630. I try to get the PLGR (GPS unit) recalibrated. We get the codes in but it's still not working right.

At 0900 we leave for Sekovici. We go beyond, trying to get to a remote village that Chief Kennedy wants to check out, but we give it up. We're unsure if the route is clear. We spend an hour checking out Zeleznik, a typical farming village. We spend some time chatting with the store owner; Roger displays a real talent for CA work in the field. We hike up the road a bit past a place with baby pigs. They romp like puppies. They'd root in the mud, then look up, all pink except for dirty noses, and grin at us. I had no idea baby pigs were that cute.

Then back to Sekovici. Chief takes a roundabout way in to check on a weapons site. It looks like a main road on the map but is actually a muddy track. We visit the school and drop off some of FLOTUS's Snickers bars (like the teddy bears, this was going to be an errand for some time). We stop off at the mayor (not in) and leave word that the JCC is cancelled (hooray!). We walk around town. I begin collecting data for a street map and do normality indicators. Sem is quite afraid to go into restaurants in Sekovici; the locals spot him as a Moslem and begin making lurid remarks about what they'd like to do. The Serbs sometimes say "you Americans have the technology, but not our will to fight." I think they would have a rude shock coming; most IFOR guys are sufficiently annoyed at being here that they would be delighted to have somebody make their day. Many years ago on my first tour in Turkey, we were talking about how tough the Greeks and Turks were, when CW4 Pace, our crew chief, said "never underestimate what a squad of pissed-off GI's can do."

Spent a bit of time chatting with SSG Boswell, who looks mean (probably is when pushed) but is actually a thoroughly decent guy to deal with. He was in Vietnam for 2-1/2 tours, but had a long break in service. He has made E6 three times. He fights for his guys; the first sergeant at Demi set up a policy of making anyone with messy quarters live in a tent for a week. Having muddy boots indoors was enough to draw the penalty. Boswell's guys always have muddy boots because they're always in the field. Boswell got in the first shirt's face and got the policy relaxed. That's probably how he lost his stripes a couple of times. Psyops gets back from their radio show at 1930; we get back to Diane at 2030.

Bachi has gone home to Belgrade for a week; his replacement, a good-natured kid with a very large nose named Amir, joins us. Chief Black got a Red Cross message that his father had a heart attack. He has gone home on emergency leave.

My laundry came back in record time. Scott hid it on me. I was about to go ballistic until he let me off the hook; somebody had signed it out of Demi.

Thu 18 Apr

Cold and clear, warming to a beautiful day. Most of the snow melts. Today's plan was for Scott and me to go to Srebrenica and Hadrick to Pale. We convoy to Demi at 063. Srebrenica falls through (never did get there) but the XO has another plan.

We go to Milici and south to the Boksit company headquarters to drop off a memo of understanding regarding setting up a firing range in the mine. Then the XO drives north to check some ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia) sites for tampering. These are suspected mass graves. These are drive-by inspections only to see if anyone has been there with a backhoe. At Drinjaca we stop while the officers check out a Serb weapons depot. The Drinjaca River starts in the mountains west of Kladanj. It flows right by Diane and Demi; the main road to Vlasenica follows it past the checkpoint and the infamous sewage pit as far as LA Pat. From there, the river swings north through Sekovici, then east through an inaccessible canyon to enter the Drina here. After checking the weapons site (a long visit), we head north along the Drina to a checkpoint, stop and get some photos. The scenery along the Drina and on the way to Drinjaca is spectacular: limestone crags and deep gorges.

In 395 A.D., the Roman Empire had become unwieldly and was split in half. The western part already was mostly Latin-speaking and the eastern part Greek. After the split, the western half looked to Rome, the eastern half to Constantinople. The western half became Roman Catholic, the eastern half Orthodox. When the Slavs moved in, they adopted the alphabets already in use. In the west, they wrote their language with a Roman alphabet, in the east, with a modified Greek alphabet. In this part of Europe, that dividing line was the Drina, which is now the dividing line between Bosnia and Yugoslavia. So here I am, having a Kodak moment on the Drina as a direct result of something that happened 1601 years ago. Never make the mistake of thinking history is irrelevant to your life!

We return via LA Lisa and stop in the CIMIC and the PX. There's a demobilization briefing in Tuzla set for Sunday; Frost is going. We should get our rotation dates then. Leave at 1730. Scott sleeps most of the way back. Hadrick drops a note in his lap and Scott grabs it reflexively. It says "Scott, are you sleeping?" Later on, when he wakes up, he wonders how it got in his hand. We get to Diane about 1900, I pull radio watch to 2100.

Even though he was with us, Amir was scared to be on the Serbian side.

I'm getting the cold that's been making the rounds of our team. I have a sore throat. The medics fix me up with decongestant, Tylenol and cough drops. Waterworld is on TV tonight. I get to bed at 2200.

The snow line is at about 600 meters. There's a little at Kladanj, none at Tisca, but quite a bit at Vlasenica, and none in Milici.

Fri 19 Apr

Cloudy but clearing to a nice day. We convoy in at 0630 and leave at 0900. It's mostly a CI mission, but we talk to the Matacar. Things are looking up; he says the road to Sarajevo is clear. We drop more of Hillary's Snickers off at the Refugee Center and learn the refugees are only getting 1.8 kilos of flour a month per person. We also hear about firing in the ZOS. Moral: you have to be out there observing to hear about it. We thought this was mostly a nothing day and picked up interesting intel all over the place. From there we go up to Tarevo and drop more Snickers off at the school, where the Hoja is giving a Koran lesson. Good incentive for the kids to go to religion classes.

Then we go west to the Hotel Konjuh, the only time I will get west of Kladanj. The Bosnians are using it for recruits (how come I never got to take Basic at a ski resort?) The road is winding and potholed but the scenery is nice. There are rough-cut tunnels with a foot of water on the road. On the way back we check out some tire tracks up a side road. Turns out to be nothing - they go in a couple of hundred meters and stop. We're hardly back on the road when I hear a growling and the steering gets stiff. Not hard to figure this one - we lost our power steering. It was a rough trip back. In Kladanj, Chief checks out the local military barracks and I check the engine. Our hose connection failed; it will be a simple repair. We are back for the day by 1530. So nice after all the 18-hour days we usually have in the field.

Geology notes: the map shows magnesite mines west of Konjh (I never get there). I suspect they are in weathered serpentinite, and there are serpentine outcrops near Konjuh, more or less confirming my guess. Also there are deformed metamorphic rocks including limestone, which I'm guessing is a different unit from the limestone on top of the high hills. The snow line is at 700 meters. It's on the ground at Konjuh and the mountains en route to Stupari.

In the afternoon I pack some stuff to send to Shawn and relax. Scott hitches a ride in to Command and Staff. The guys here have gone in on a satellite feed and in the vening we see Jake and the Fatman dubbed in Serbo-Croatian. Shortly I am going to have a real linguistic adventure involving this satellite dish.

PFC Lanese from Psyops has been here for nine days; his vehicle had over 40 faults. Plus they held him over for one more night of guard duty. He's P.O'd - he hates it here. To add insult to injury he got sprayed with oil when another guard opened the oil cap on a generator while it was running.

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Last update 23 Apr 1997