Small World

22 - 24 Feb 1996

Thu 22 Feb

Slated to go to Tuzla today. There are two inches of snow by morning and it snows hard all morning. As usual, the convoys are late. We get to Demi, but SFC Robb begs off the Tuzla run because he has no snow chains (nobody uses chains in Wisconsin!. Robb is short, fed up because his mission here is not really CI, and it shows. We finally grab a fourth vehicle. The snow tapers off by the time we get to Tuzla. I meet the CSM, CPT Birong, SPC Marquardt, MSG Haglund. MAJ Bomske, CPT Nellis, and his team (including SGT Raker) have been here since the 9th. They are going west to Doboj. I visit the PX and call Shawn for the first time - the AT&T phones are finally up - she's delighted.

I rode with CPL Dave Strang, the Chaplain's Assistant. He's a bright, largely self-educated kid with wide interests but the usual gaps and misunderstandings self-educated people often have. We get to be good friends over the next few months. He gave me a bad scare - he locked my day pack away without telling me - I thought somebody stole it. Rick Stevens had sent me some magazine articles - twice - one to my correct address and one to Task Force Eagle here at Tuzla Main. I got the second copy when I visited the CIMIC Center and gave them to Strang.

On the way back we stop at the BSA, aka the Thunderdome. There are several camps several kilometers apart in a large coal mine. CPT Miller rides in with the medic vehicle to pick up a soldier who, it turned out, had evidently caught a ride and never informed anyone. We spend an hour on the road in the dusk mostly fending off local kids, many of whom are war orphans living in a nearby school. Some are selling old, now-obsolete Bosnian currency as souvenirs. Periodically, the kids get too numerous or bold and we have to shoo them away, but they come back. Finally the medic vehicle came back. It was totally covered in mud - an unbelievable mess. It looked like somebody had tried to sculpt a Humvee out of a glob of mud. Miller said all the tents blew down in the windstorm two nights ago because they couldn't anchor tents very well.

We stop briefly in Stupari so Psyops can pass out their papers, then go to Demi for Command and Staff (or Command and Shaft, as it was often called).

The lot in Demi is beginning to be graveled (it will take weeks and literally thousands of loads) but the unpaved area is the worst ever - over the boots everywhere. SGT Lindemann dropped his weapon and it sank completely out of sight. He had to fish around for it. PSYOPS came over to Diane and spent the night, and Lindemann simply washed his weapon in our sink.

Ray is depressed. A dozen unit members from Force Pack 7 are not deploying and Trish his wife is one. He's furious. The commander and CSM seem not to care about this unit - they are worthless. (As I write after getting home, I have some compassion for the CO but zero for the CSM; he is the most pathetic excuse for an NCO I have ever seen. He's swaggering, cocky, talks tough but does nothing.) Ray's problem goes beyond mere separation; they have rented out their home and now do not have a place to live.

Fri 23 Feb

Cold with snow flurries all day. I get to sleep in a little. The guards spot a possible sniper. I catch a glimpse of the guy darting between two houses. They said he had been aiming a scope rifle at the camp. Maybe he was just bored or using the scope as a telescope, because nothing ever happened.

We foot patrol into Kladanj. Psyops passes out their papers. We circulate around. Kids are very eager to help us learn Bosnian. We stop for a while in a cafe. One man we talk to had lost his daughter and son-in-law to an RPG round in his own yard. He showed us pictures of a handsome man and pretty woman, both in their 30's. The children now live with their grandfather. The mayor lost his father to an RPG also.

We go to the mayor's office, where I learn he has a torch from the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics on his desk. Then we split into two parties. Miller and PSYOPS go to the radio station to check it out and see about arranging an IFOR radio broadcast. Comfort and I go to the Bosansk Textile Factory to assess it. The mayor takes us to the Bezistan Restaurant for a late lunch - steak and mushrooms! The Bezistan is done up in rustic decor and has a big fireplace, which is nice on a cold day like this. We spend some time talking geology. Both the mayor and Semir have mining engineering backgrounds, and like engineers everywhere, think they're also geologists. The mayor says there's opal in the area, and magnesite is mined about 10-15 km west of Kladanj for refractories and abrasives. We talk about possibly getting out on a field trip when the weather gets nicer, but it never happens.

In the evening a local computer teacher, his wife, and a friend drop in. The purpose of the visit was to find out about computer classes he was offering on computers donated by the Qatar Humanitarian Agency. The guy is pretty shy. What breaks the ice is my running some instructional programs I had brought along in case I had any spare time (ha!).

This visit makes me notorious. The teacher's wife is the secretary to the mayor, and pretty nice looking at any time, but tonight she was dressed up and looked sensational. When I wrote up the daily SitRep, I couldn't resist a little joke. So I wrote that he "was accompanied by his wife, who is a major babe (just checking to see if anyone actually reads these reports)". When Ray looked it over, I could tell immediately when he got to that line because he started howling with laughter. Then he insisted on sending it up that way. The next time I visited Brigade, SFC Coyle made some wisecracks about the report as well. For all I know, General Nash may have seen it.

The third visitor turned out to be the most useful contact we made. She was Jagoda Habibovic, director of the Social Welfare office. We got to be good friends and often dropped by when we walked in to town. Since Jagoda means strawberry in Bosnian (pretty much the same as in Russian) we often referred to her as Miss Strawberry. She was blonde, in her 40's, still fairly attractive.

The food here has gone from bad to incredibly bad. The mess crew just doesn't care.

The end-most room of the addition is now the Day Room/TV room. There is usually a stock of videotapes people have sent from home. Tonight somebody showed Clear and Present Danger, then a rowdy crew watched some very hard-core porn movies. I pull radio watch 2200-2400.

Sat 24 Feb

Light snow in the morning, clearing a little by sunset. It's in the 30's but a damp cold. We go to Sekovici. Miller and I do a housing assessment, then Reschke and I do a traffic count for normality indicators. I'm riding with CI today. SGT Kranz bought a bayonet: "You didn't see anything, right?". They have a camouflaged boom box in an MRE carton in their truck.

We get back to Diane about 1500. While walking across the parking lot, I saw a crew taking the engine out of an M113 APC. I stopped to look (the engine is huge) and a SPC John Friedland from Delta Company looked up and asked if I was one of the 432nd Reservists from Green Bay. I was a little surprised, but it turned out he was from Green Bay, too. I found out later he had been talking to CPT Miller. Then he looked at my name tape and said "I knew a Dutch in High School".

"First name Chris?"
"Yes"
"That's my son."

At 1600 we hike down to the hospital with Dr. Kaplan to view a video of war injuries and surgery. It was horrible but fascinating. One soldier had a mine go off between his legs. His penis looked like a flap of raw meat, one leg was almost severed, and there was a hole leading up into his abdominal cavity. Not only did he survive, but he recovered enough to return to the Army. When he got out he married and fathered a child. Incredible. He made a complete recovery.

Evening is quiet. I clean my weapon, do laundry, play Jezzball on the computer, get to bed by 2200.

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Last update 23 Apr 1997