Milici

22 - 29 Mar 1996

Fri 22 Mar

We stop off at LA Pat to coordinate use of a field near the corner of the camp. It is behind some trees and is a blind spot, so the commander wants to ring it with wire. The guards open the concertina, let us through, and we talk to the owner. He's agreeable provided he can still work the land, which is just fine. As we're walking in, the First Sergeant accosts me angrily and asks what we're doing going out through his wire. "What is this guy's problem?" I wonder, since it's obvious I'm with an officer. Scott explains and that's that for now. A month from now I have another very similar encounter and figure our just what the problem is (May 6).

We convoy to Milici, which is almost entirely undamaged. We visit the mayor's office, the Red Cross storehouse, and the Orthodox Church. Two stunning girls at the mayor's office catch everyone's attention. It's an attractive town with reasonably well-stocked stores. There is a very attractive park along the river near the main highway. We have a combat camera crew along; they enjoy the outing. We stop off at LA Lisa. There's a wild scene when Kennedy's vehicle gets mired in the mud up to the axles. Fortunately, our vehicle has a tow strap and we can pull them out. We are stuck at Demi until 1900, then a sudden convoy movement allows us to get back to Diane. I get to ride in Air Force One - that's the call sign of the Air Force liaison team Humvee.

I decide I'm resigned to moving to Demi if we have to - the uncertainty and sheer waste of time waiting for convoys are wearing me out.

Sat 23 Mar

Sleep till 0830 - boy did I need it. We spend the morning on reports and getting the big wooden shipping box into our trailer (BG Cherrie is coming by tomorrow, so we're spiffing up.) At 1300 we march in to add some more items to our cleaning supplies order - buckets. Three battalion guys come with us. This is always an eye-opener for them. We're back by 1500. I pull radio watch 1800-2100. A nice, quiet day.

Sun 24 Mar.

Two months in-country today. Frost in the morning, then sunny. Miller and Hadrick go to Data Dump, leaving me to face BG Cherrie at 1000. Cherrie is very friendly, universally respected, cares for his troops. Shaking hands is startling because he lost some fingers in Vietnam. He asked what I do in civilian life, noted my 3rd Army patch (from the Gulf), said he wants to coach high school football when he retires in two years. He asked what the task force could do to help. I mention the four-vehicle rule. He says "next chart." He's heard it before, I know he has, he knows I know, etc., but I still thought it needed to be mentioned. He says "There are people here who want to kill Americans big-time." Then I discuss the need to get more NGO's into the field. That he finds interesting and agrees. Chief Black later told me he thought I did a good job briefing the general.

The rest of the day is very quiet. I read, work on assessments, play some computer games. I need a day off - ten more just like this one would be nice! I pull radio watch at 1800 since our convoy is still out.

Mon 25 Mar

The whole team with the two interpreters convoys to Demi. I ride in the back of a truck. We stop briefly at LA Pat. Our Scouts get highly ticked to hear Sheryl Crow is coming to LA Demi and they won't be there. Scott goes ballistic too; it strikes me as sort of tongue-in-cheek. I suspect 90 per cent is an act to show solidarity with the troops. I'd like to go myself.

We stop briefly at Vlasenica. I contact Brown and Root about rumors of stolen UN generators in Kladanj. They heard no such stories. They call back to the Hotel Bosna in Kladanj and find out that a landowner was holding some UN conexes until the UN came across with money for renting his land (lotsa luck!)

We go to Milici and stop at the Red Cross. I guard the weapons so Hoskins can go in and get exposure. The meeting is not very productive; the Red Cross is sick of answering the same questions over and over just so other agencies can file reports (shades of Kuwait!) Miller and I go off to meet the Orthodox priest, Mili Salipvrevich. He shows us his church and we have a very friendly visit. He is one of the people we come to respect most on our tour. He is very pacifist and probably not representative of the local attitudes. Hoskins and Hadrick collect a lot of good data on public facilities. We swing south to check out a mine marked on the maps. Actually it's a mill and sand pit. Next door is the head office of the mining company. We will soon be regular visitors there. We get to Demi at 1750. I call Shawn (we have AT&T phones at Demi now.) We leave after Command and Staff and get in at 2100.

Shawn did not know people were coming home! I hear from Scott that 14 went home. In addition to Comfort, Reschke and McMurray, Birong and Nellis (hurt knee) left. We ride back in the back of a truck and discuss it.

Tue 26 Mar

Sleep till 0830. Hoskins loses a file on the computer and lost a lot of work he had done typing a report on Milici. Psyops comes by very late. We march into town at noon. We try to contract a street sweeper to clear the road of mud near Demi, and also try to find a copier at the IFOR price. IFOR will pay 9 pfennigs a copy, but the one place in town that has a copier wants 50! We hike up the river to check out PakBat 2, one of the UN conex sites. All but one are gone. We go to the PTT office so Hoskins can try to call his girl friend (Jennifer Houlihan), who is stationed in the British sector at Gornji Vakuf, but gets no reply.

Hadrick has a lot of stories. PakBat was useless for convoy protection - they didn't like to go out. Hadrick got screwed on his assignment. He was supposed to go to Sarajevo, an assignment that would have used his experience.

Wed 27 Mar

Radio watch 0300-0600. rain starts about 0500 and continues all day. Dobar dan ostati unutra - a good day to stay inside. We finally lose the Battle of the Conexes. BG Cherrie, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, has a logistics counterpart in BG O'Neill. O'Neill is as despised and ridiculed as Cherrie is respected. Cherrie thinks moving the conexes is stupid but won't intrude on O'Neill's sphere of operations. The issue is money. Demi, Pat and Lisa are the only living areas with modules because they are higher and get colder weather. The command refuses to spend more money on modules (the budget is gone) so they are using our UN conexes. Henceforth the mechanics will commute in from Demi.

The day is quiet but I get a lot done. I update assessments, call MAJ Pasiecznik at G2 with what I have heard about the alleged stolen generators, I get info on cleaning Route Mississippi near LA Demi, clean my weapon, get a start on setting up our printer, and write letters. We have had the printer since we got here but could never make it work. I found out from SSG Buelow at Lisa that the trick is an emulation setting in the driver. We could probably have done it all along.

The stream is very high because of the rain. We will be keeping a careful eye on it during storms for the next month or so. There was a bad flood here a year ago and debris is still lodged in the trees halfway up to the second floor, maybe 3 meters above the banks. I pull Miller's radio watch 1800-2100. Somebody has nicknamed BG O'Neill Ming the Merciless, and SFC Holmes has a way of delivering the label with a twang that had everyone in stitches. The clowning in the office was unreal, although it was one of those you-had-to-be-there situations.

Thu 28 Mar

1-1/2 inches of snow in the morning. A slow day: do reports, prepare a briefing book on the Peace Accords for local leaders. We go to Command and Staff and pick up a load of packages: two for me, two for Miller, one for Hoskins, and a box for the group from retired MSG Joe Bechlem. I have radio watch 0000-0300 but only got an hour of sleep beforehand. I had just laid down when Miller played a prank on Hoskins. Hoskins had been chatting with the interpreters and Baci had (against regulations, even for an interpreter) a little alcohol. Hoskins saw it but only had Pepsi. Miller jumped on him (in jest) for drinking and really laid it on - he was going to be sent home in disgrace, etc. Hoskins came in to me shaking; I was not in on the joke but I could see what was going on - it was so totally out of character for Scott. It took some doing to calm Hoskins down - it got just a bit out of hand.

The chaplain made an appropriate sign for the office to commemorate the onset of spring flooding, from Jeremiah 47:2 and 48:14.

This is what the LORD says: "See how the waters are rising in the north; they will become an overflowing torrent. They will overflow the land and everything in it, the towns and those who live in them. The people will cry out; all who dwell in the land will wail

How can you say, 'We are warriors, men valiant in battle'?

Fri 29 Mar

Radio watch 0000-0300, convoy to Demi at 0630. This will be the regimen from now on, now that the mechanics had to move back to Demi. Hadrick takes some Teddy Bears over to the school, Miller and I go to a meeting with some locals at 0800 about a broken phone line and repairs to the road to Imamovici. We find out that the phone company needs money before it can begin repairs - they have a cash flow problem. Folks in Imamovici are upset they can't use the road past Demi (their usual way out.) The AVLB (Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge) west of Demi can be used (it's actually shorter) but the approach is a quagmire. The Engineers will fix that. Then we convoy into the hills north of Demi to check out a damage claim on land belonging to Mr. Saric (the local tycoon). One kilometer up a narrow and muddy track, we find a field with tire tracks. It's the first turnaround, and there's no sign the field has ever been cultivated, and in any case plowing will erase the damage, which is trivial. He wants an outrageous sum of money in compensation.

Then we go to Stupari and brief the Municipal Secretary on the Peace Accords. This is an order, although we think it's a waste of time since they already know all this anyway; we allow them to leaf through the briefing book, which is bilingual, and answer any questions. The secretary's assistant, Alija, reminds me of one of the more attractive students I have had in my classes (I like going to Stupari.) Chief Kennedy meets with the local police and military. From there, we go on up to Nocajevici. I stay with the vehicle while Miller, Hadrick, Baci and CPT Zeleski (the S2) go on up to see the mosque. They are late getting back; it's longer than we thought to the mosque plus they are invited in for coffee. We're just about to send people to look for them when they turn up. Eventually we will get smart enough to bring our walkie-talkies for cases like this. Then back to Stupari so Psyops can hand out their papers. From there we go up to Tarevo, visit the mosque and cemetery. The mosque is a two-story building with a balcony, like the one I saw in Tuzla. A lot of mosques have minarets of sheet metal with a conical cap. It's sacrilegious perhaps, but I always think of the Tin Woodsman from the Wizard of Oz when I see one. The purpose of visiting the mosques is to get coordinates to add to our no-fire list. We also see the new mosque, which was just started when construction was halted by the war. We stop in to our friend's house again for coffee and conversation. We head back to Diane; Zeleski gets permission to go back to Demi with three vehicles (one is a crew-served weapon.) We get in at 1830; I pull radio watch until 2100. Hoskins has Sergeant of the Guard overnight. I threaten to call a QRF (Quick Reaction Force) drill every 15 minutes. This was an excellent day.

Radio watch was hilarious. The generator at Checkpoint Sandra went out, so LA Pat called to get a generator mechanic, except all the mechanics are now over at Demi. (The generator mechanic was SPC Oliva, who was the only generator mechanic in the battalion and in constant demand.) This is no problem; go find Oliva and send him out to fix the generator. Except the idea of the XO having a problem he had to solve on his own instead of simply calling the maintenance facility absolutely blew his mind. It took well over an hour to sort it out. The flailing around was unbelievable.

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Last update 23 Apr 1997