Bosnia-The Beginning

October-November 1995

PREFACE

This is a lot harder to write up than was Desert Storm. In Desert Storm, the 432d stayed together most of the time. Even where we split into teams, my activities were pretty representative of everybody else's. In Bosnia, we were split into a dozen or more teams. Everybody has a unique story. In the Gulf, most of the characters in my narrative were from the 432d. In Bosnia, most of them are active duty people I got to know while there. The same will be true of everybody else's story.

In my Desert Storm diary, after I wrote up my journal completely, I deleted most of the most critical or uncomplimentary remarks about individuals. I can't do that so easily here. For one thing, the mix of good and bad is much more tightly woven into the story in Bosnia. In the Gulf, we had a few cases where normally sharp people did a few dumb things, and a few people who were just plain useless. The dumb acts and useless cases were pretty much marginal to the story. Omitting most references to them doesn't do any harm. In Bosnia, it's a lot harder to separate things; in many cases the dumb deeds are a significant part of the story. We had people we expected to perform well, and did. We had others we didn't expect much of, and they lived up (or down) to expectations. But we had some people we expected good things of who performed below expectations, and some people we didn't expect much of who came out looking better than we expected.

Also, I ran into a few (very few, but enough) complete and total jerks in both deployments. I didn't mention most of them in the Desert Storm diary, and I have often regretted it. All my omission served was to shield incompetents from exposure. I will mention them here. They no doubt came home with decorations; history needs to know they were jerks and the Army needs to know they were jerks. If they ever read this account, they themselves need to know they were jerks and that their stupidity and juvenile behavior has been recorded for posterity. Libel laws being what they are, I don't name them, but they should easily be able to recognize themselves. Finally, Fort Bragg and USACAPOC need a reality check. We ran into far too many people there that take a slack attitude toward getting the mission done. They will never fix things if nobody ever says anything.

That being said, there aren't many complete duds in this account. There are a lot of people I like and respect wholeheartedly, and a lot of examples of just how complex human nature is. There are generally likeable people who occasionally, sometimes habitually, do exasperating things (like LT MacDonald, who was chronically late in returning from evening meetings, or MAJ Dixon, who always called at 2200 with inquiries about parts and repairs), and some mostly irritating people with impressive redeeming qualities (like CPT Cloutier, an over-the-top combat type who also did a lot to unsort the chaos in the early days). I can't do justice to the story without telling both sides.

As a general rule, anyone mentioned by name in this account is someone I would gladly serve with again. The fact that I mention some of their foibles should never obscure the fact that they were good people to serve with.

After Desert Storm, I started typing up my diary soon after getting home and had it done by October. I didn't even start typing my Bosnia diary until October and didn't finish until April of 1997. After the Gulf we all had the feeling of a great adventure that did something significant. After Bosnia my feeling was of a six-month long unending nuisance where my overwhelming feeling was glad to be out, and it took a long time to want to re-live it by writing up the diary. Actually, writing up the diary helped put things in perspective, but even so it went in fits and starts. Partly that was a matter of not wanting to do it, partly a matter of huge other burdens and especially a massive writing load at work. Just what you want to do after spending all day writing. Come home and write some more. What finally put me over the hump was not wanting to be in the position of writing up events over a year after they happened.

PERSONAL NOTES

There are some things in this diary that won't make sense without a few personal notes. I lived in Maine until I was 13, then moved to California. So every time I ran into a Maine person in Bosnia, I always had something to talk about. I went to Berkeley from 1965-1969 (improbable background for somebody on his third tour of active duty). In civilian life I teach geology (and other things) at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and at the time we were called up I was in my final year as chair of Natural and Applied Sciences. It took the full resources of two nations to do it, but I found something more aggravating than being chair (but that was only because I could go home at night from the University).

Sat 7 Oct 1995

LTC Kilgareff had lengthy talks with his higher-ups most of the day. Calls the unit together, tells us to expect to be deployed, probably late December or later. PT test today: 50+ pushups ad situps, 17:56 in the run, 247 overall. Best score ever.

Sat 4 Nov 1995

Over-40 physical this morning; went to Appleton with MAJ Nishida. He left without me because he was off to Germany for an exercise; that was going to be fateful. Wayne Huempfner and I left together, had lunch at a nice steak joint near the Appleton Reserve Center then got in about 1400. The mood is surreal; there were briefings much of the morning and people who didn't hear the LTC last month were stunned. I think things are still too nebulous to get really upset about, though being prepared is a good plan.

Sun 5 Nov 1995

Spend all day on POM, which people are taking very seriously. We got in some language stuff, which I issued late in the day to selected linguists once I got a free moment. DLI sent some Serbo-Croat stuff including a nice little survival kit (5 copies). SGT Raker from the UP was commendably energetic in getting hold of language stuff from her civilian sources. I'll have to see if we can get an order in for some of the books. A unit in Maine is running a short course for Slavic speakers in January-3 weeks. I'd love to go but the course overlaps the spring semester.

Mon 6 Nov - Sat 11 Nov

At Geological Society of America meeting in New Orleans, and field trip to Birmingham Alabama.

Sat 11 Nov

Return to New Orleans, picked up by Doug and Judy Stracener (I roomed with Doug the year I was stationed in Turkey). As soon as we're on the Interstate, Doug hands me his cellular phone and tells me to call home. Shawn tells me there was an accident in Germany and Todd Inman was killed. Gives me MAJ Frost's number to call for more info.

Sun 12 Nov

An all too short day catching up on old news with Doug and Judy. He is heavily into things like the Sheriff's Reserves, doing disaster relief and training exercises, pretty much for the same reason I'm in the Army Reserves: something exciting and useful. He's even talking about taking Judy to Istanbul. I think we were both affected in much the same way by our year over there.

I called MAJ Frost. MAJ Nishida, CPT Hermsen and Todd were in a military vehicle passing a convoy. A vehicle pulled out and ran them into the median. Nishida got a concussion, Hermsen has several broken vertebrae and will be in Germany several weeks, and Todd was killed instantly from massive head injuries.

Mon 12 Nov-Fri 17 Nov

All week long there is nothing definite on funeral arrangements for Todd. I let the unit know I'm available for anything they need. Apart from my military concerns, UWGB has a major budget crunch, we are going through an exhaustive survey of program needs, we have two faculty vacancies over a year old. Nancy Sell died on Nov. 5 from liver cancer, meaning the entire Engineering faculty has departed since I took over as chair. I have a rewrite of about 100 pages of computer manual to do for the spring semester. On Wed 15 Nov we had a tenure meeting for a junior professor that had to adjourn because of insufficient attendance, something that left me very upset (we finally met on Friday). At the end of the meeting, a professor announced he would be leaving. I met with him privately and found that he had had a tremendous confrontation with another professor - in a classroom yet - because the other professor had allegedly insulted his wife in class. I spent much of the next two days dealing with this fiasco.

This week went beyond bizarre into the Twilight Zone. I wonder what's going to happen next.

Sat 18 Nov

The Press-Gazette runs a note that MAJ Nishida is home; gives a little detail on the accident. Call Nishida, speak to his wife, let her know Les can call me any time he needs to. She is very grateful for the support they have gotten from everyone. Also call Bob Haglund, who I found is in charge of the arrangements for Todd. Tell him I'm available for anything. Between having lots of volunteers and perhaps relying heavily on his own detachment, he has everyone he needs for now. I learn the service is set for Tuesday 21 Nov. I got a haircut just in case. Good thing-he calls in the evening and asks if I can be at the center at 0800 Tuesday in Class A's. Calling hours are 1600-2100 Mon 20 Nov, the service at 1000 on Tuesday. We assemble early to practice.

Sun 19 Nov

Go to Barnes & Noble in Appleton to pick up some computer handbooks; also any Serbo-Croat stuff they may have. The Teach Yourself book looks pretty good and I get it. (I have some old books in the series that were truly awful, but they have been entirely redone and are now actually very good.)

Mon 19 Nov

Take my field methods class to Mountain for one last (although cold) look at rocks in the field. Go straight to the calling hours for Todd. At least 20 unit members past and present are there. Connie MacNamara has some details on the accident. MAJ Nishida was driving, passing a convoy. A 5-ton pulled out and Nishida hit the brakes. Their vehicle hit the median barrier, flipped into the oncoming lane, and hit on the passenger side. All three were belted in, but the vehicle landed upside down. Les is not considered at fault.

Tue 20 Nov

Gather at center at 0800. Firing detail includes me, Wally Coyle, Tom Moore, Ralph Gadbois, SGT Antone, a relatively new troop (ex-Marine), . Practice several times but still a bit rough; I haven't done the manual of arms since basic. Ralph has the USMC bus to take us to the church. We form up flanking the walk at St. John the Baptist in Howard as the pallbearers come in. Bitterly cold - about 20 with a strong wind. Way too cold for Class A's. After Mass we form up outside, fire three volleys, then Taps is played. Normally this is done at the grave but is done at the church because of the cold. Then we flank the walk again as the pallbearers file out, followed by the congregation. It was COLD. As we were forming up, someone handed us a message for LTC Kilgariff.

At the center, LTC Kilgariff phones the 308th. The Bosnia peace accord has been signed. He tells us to plan to be mobilized. COL Price of the 308th is also here, as is CSM Matayosian. Price tells us that 1st AD, whom we support, is slated to be the ground force in the US Sector. They will ship their tanks in via Hungary (to someone old enough to recall the 1956 Hungarian uprising, this is mind-boggling!). NATO has to draft a plan, the President has to get Congress to agree, and then the Joint Chiefs have to decide on resources. Lots of things have to happen yet for us to go, but we are a bit closer.

Kilgariff has been here since word of the accident, and seems genuinely moved and concerned. He is not warm and fuzzy, but he is reasonable and decent.

About 20 unit members were at the service, apart from the funeral details. Les Nishida came over to the center afterward. I doubt anyone feels anything but sympathy for him.

The evening paper has a blurb on the 432nd possibly going to Bosnia.

Wed 22 Nov

Two items in the evening paper. Another note on the 432nd perhaps being mobilized, and a real bombshell. One officer, a lawyer in civilian life, lost his law license for a year. When he left a previous law firm, he failed to disclose all the cases he had pending as well as keeping some fees. He paid restitution and had some favorable character witnesses, otherwise it might have been a lot worse.

1LT MacMurray has a site on the World-Wide Web where he has posted our unit history. I e-mailed him my Desert Storm Diary.

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Last update 23 Apr 1997