Departure Plans and The Cable Guy

16 - 22 May 1996

Thu 16 May

I take Scott's radio watch 0000-0300, sleep till 0830. Cliff Baker comes by at 0900. He had a report that a local claimed he knew where her sons' bodies were (on the Serb side) and wanted to go see. They were killed in 1992 or 1993. the area may have been mined since. This is neither an IFOR nor an IPTF mission. At 0930 we walk into town, stop for coffee with Mladen's dad, get haircuts, try to see Jagoda but she's not in. We get back at 1200. Camp and Dragonette come by along with two landowners; they work out payment for land along Route Mississippi (near the checkpoint) for use as a rifle range. Camp turns down chocolate, says he's watching his girlish figure. I nod at his female interpreter, say I'm watching her girlish figure. He got a kick out of that. Later on the election overseer came by and explained the training and registration process to us. I did the daily Sitrep. The rest of the afternoon was quiet; I get a little reading in..

The kiosk we arranged for earlier is finally in just below our office, selling burgers and cevapi.

I pull radio watch 1800-2100. Radio watch has been quiet lately because Dark Helmet has been on leave, but he returns today.

Fri 17 May

Mission for today falls through. I spend a quiet day mostly working on the transition books, updating files and getting inventory paperwork ready. Barb comes by at 1100. In the afternoon we walk into town so Barb can thank Mladen's mother for Easter dinner. We sit at the little terrace across the way and chat over soft drinks. Roger tells a story about one time working as a waiter:

Roger: How would you like your eggs?
Pretty lady customer: Fertilized!

Mladen, for all his command of English and general precociousness, didn't get it. Niki, the little black and brown mutt that hangs around downtown, had just gotten pregnant, so I said "That's what just happened to Niki". Scott roared.

I pull radio watch 1800-2100. I was about to go to bed at 2300 when George asked if I had the address of the WHO. I recalled seeing some reference to a file on PVO's and NGO's while surfing the files Cindy downloaded to us. I found a database with 750 entries. Jackpot!

I activated the QRF during radio watch - 6-1/2 minutes, about twice as long as previously. There is a new guard setup since the AWOL - guards can be anywhere in the area - and it takes longer to round them up.

Sat 18 May.

Roger has guard for 24 hours beginning at 0600. My dreams of sleeping in a bit are shattered when George gets a mission to go to LA Pat - Bradleys tore up a road. I'm up running off claims forms. Then our SP to Demi gets pushed up to 0830 - unheard of (usually moves start later rather than earlier). We hang around at Demi watching track crews change treads until our convoy leaves for LA Molly (in the Thunderdome) at 1030. We get there at 1200. MAJ Bestul gives us the info on our replacements. We now have their names (accurately, it turns out).

MAJ Kiefer of San Antonio was there. He gained a lot of notoriety as the OIC of a group that intercepted seven armed civilians and turned them over to the Serbs. They were being held in Zvornik and came to be called the Zvornik Seven. There was a great row in the press but ADM Leighton Smith backed him 100 per cent. The civilians claimed to be Muslim refugees but their stories didn't add up. They claimed to have walked for days but their clothes were clean, they crossed a road where they were almost certain to be seen despite the availability of good cover nearby, and so on. Did they want to be intercepted? Were they Serbs trying to provoke an incident? I heard a lot of criticism of Kiefer but hearing his side gives me a somewhat different view. (In retrospect, after weighing all the pros and cons, I agree with the people who say Kiefer did the right thing but he erred in not confirming things with his superiors before acting. So many things could have gone wrong that it would have been better to play it safe. Nobody was going anywhere.)

There was some talk about local women and the ubiquitous rotten teeth. Someone asks if they ever heard of flossing. I replied "Yes, they use 550 cord". General uproar. (550 cord is about 1/8 in diameter.)

We return with 2/68's convoy. Barb rides with us. We get back about 1650. I get a little rest, then take over George's radio watch until he gets back. I come in loudly ordering QRF's, air strikes, etc. Chief Black asks if I can call the Navy and have them send a cruise missile up Route Skoda (the main road past our site). Reason? He's never seen one. I suggest we could also have it turn the corner on Route Mississippi toward Demi. Great fun. George gets back in about 1930. I'm printing things and in no rush. He finally relieves me at 2000.

It was a gorgeous day - the hills were incredibly green and it was superbly clear. It was also brutally hot in our flak vests. It's noticeably cooler in the mountains than at LA Molly. Somebody said it hit 98. I have my doubts but it was in the high 80's for sure. Fortunately LA Molly has a relaxed uniform code inside the camp and we could shed most of the gear. Somebody mentioned that to Briscoe and he replied that Molly wasn't 5 km from the ZOS like Demi.

Sun 19 May

Five years ago today I went up into the mountains in Kurdistan. I spent the morning planning our transition book and re-doing our awards. (They got kicked back four times before final acceptance. Some of the reasons were incredibly minor, like two words run together. I've seen awards practically done in crayon on shopping bag but these had to be perfect.) Another hot and sunny day. At 1400 we visit the baker. His father died returning from Mecca and was buried in Turkey. In accordance with local custom we bring gifts: candy and sugar. En route we run into Cliff Baker, who talks with us about the break in. CPT Conte (the JAG officer) is trying to contact the family before going to trial but they don't want to talk to a lawyer. There is definitely something strange about all this.

At the baker's we have a nice visit. He's very sad about it. His father was 75 and highly respected. We leave and go downtown by the mosque, only to run into Cliff again, so we walk back chatting as we go. On the way back we run into Alija, the cute town secretary from Stupari. She's not a redhead now but brunette. Either she dyed her hair or the sun bleached it. It's 1700 when we get in. MAJ Dixon talks briefly with Miller and Hadrick. It's friendly but with overtones that we are sometimes a bit too casual.

I shower and get to bed at 2215. I'm scheduled for watch 0300-0600 but George swaps with me. He doesn't sleep much and prefers the low-traffic hours.

I saw a bit of Aladdin on TV this morning, dubbed in Bosnian. It was neat to see the Bosnian version of American slang: "Odlazimo - we're outta here", "dobi sebe - get a grip on yourself".

Mon 20 May

Up at 0650, out at 0720. I call Shawn. We convoy to LA Pat at 0900. Miller talks to the kiosk owner about the price policy (charge only the going prices), and drops off his report on local prices for comparison. The company commander takes it gruffly. (Usually he's OK but must have been having a bad day.) Scott muses that maybe it's a short guy compensation thing. Then up comes CPT Pastic, who barely tops 5 feet and weighs maybe 120 soaking wet. "Hi guys, howya doing? Thanks for getting the kiosk for us" and generally about as cheerful as you can get.. What a contrast. On the way out the kiosk owner has three burgers for Scott, Sem and me, a "gift" for the inspectors.

We go to Vlasenica. While waiting Scott and I hike the main loop road in town so I can gather data for the street maps I'm compiling. Our scout escort spots a soldier with a weapon. We call it in and post security. CPT Miller, SSG Boswell and Sem confer with the commander. the weapon was permissible but the guard should remain at the building entrance, not rove. The commander and Batiste are slated to confer soon to iron out kinks like this. The scouts give us a ride back just in case.

Then we go to Milici. This is mostly Chief's mission but we patrol around. I spot an Arkan poster in a shop window and shoot a picture of it. The shop owner tries to discourage me with gestures. Normally I yield to people's sensitivities, but in this case my attitude was "Screw you. I have an M-16, 180 rounds, a bunch of heavily armed friends, and I didn't make a war criminal into a national hero." We're out at 1530 and stop off at Brigade. I drop off a data disk to SSG Buelow. We're back at Diane by 1730. I pull radio watch 1800-2100 and do the awards up - again.

Tue 21 May

Sleep in until 0800. I spend the morning itemizing possible civic projects for 4/12 and working on town maps. I now have maps of Sekovici, Milici, Vlasenica and Stupari-Tarevo. The Engineers come to blow two suspicious boxes that turned up in the last few days on the hill behind the building, but we soon have a blowup of another kind. LT Bishop calls from the TOC and says to contact the police. They came and a guard took them to the site. They opened the boxes, picked them up, and brought them down to the area. There will be hell to pay. It has already been reported up to brigade. The actual contents were harmless - flares, but the boxes could easily have been booby-trapped, daisy-chained to other devices, or simply old and unstable.

At 1300 we foot patrol in, stop at Mladen's school to set up a mine awareness class. The secretary tells us to call the principal in the morning. Then we see the baker, alert him that Finance is coming. We stop and visit the IPTF. With four of the six present, it's a good photo op (George and Peter are on the way back from Tuzla). We get a few photos, then return by 1530. On the way back, Mladen gives us his teacher's phone and address as a contact.

The German IPTF guys dropped by in the evening. They told us the Zvornik Seven had been living in the hills for months and marauding. In their opinion they were just where they belonged. They were reportedly roughed up pretty severely in jail by the Serbs.

Wed 22 May

A somewhat weird day. I had radio watch from 0000-0300 and slept very poorly. I had been slated to drive to the Drina but didn't feel I could stay alert enough to drive safely, so I swapped with Roger. Up at 0630, print damage claim forms (without a Xerox, we were running them off on the computer endlessly).

At 0730 Scott and I foot patrol in, contact the school and set up the mine awareness class. Then we take our escorts on a short tour. The usual route was down to the river, by the mosque, then up the hill behind it for a good photo stop. After we get back, I work on files and admin tasks and get a short nap. At 1400 we march in again with CPT Conte and CPT Perozo to talk with the police. Mirsad, one of the victims, fails to show (no surprise there, given their reluctance to deal with lawyers). On the way back to Diane a doctor formerly from the hospital (now moved to Sarajevo) stops us and launches into a tirade - she's angry that IFOR is treating the Serbs the same as Bosnians (just like we're supposed to do). I have no idea what inspired this, unless it was the Zvornik Seven issue. Scott filled me in on some very interesting things he heard about people in the hills south of Milici, most of it classified.

There were no interpreters at Diane today, with Bachi gone home and Sem on the mission, so I filled in. I got election materials from one visitor and dealt with a guy who needed auto documents (today is service day - part of the agreement for using this place is that one day a week a local mechanic can come in and service cars). But the diciest of all was dealing with the cable TV guy. He set up a satellite dish a couple of weeks ago and wants his money. SFC Campbell and I had about 1/4 of what he needed, but he wants it all, and Finance was late in getting to Demi. So I had to tell him that Finance wasn't here, we didn't have the money, and to come back at 2100 - all in Bosnian. He was not happy. I told SFC Campbell "We have to get him the money by tonight if we have to knock over a gas station to do it!" (That's all LTC Briscoe would need after the AWOL a couple of weeks ago!) Fortunately we were spared that when Finance came to Demi. At 2100 the TV guy came, and so did the convoy from the Drina. Everything worked out OK, and SFC Campbell gave him an extra DM50 for his trouble, so everyone was happy (everyone at Diane chipped in for the dish but nobody had the money on hand).

I got another nap at 1800 and pulled radio watch 2100-2400. It's been sunny and cool the past few days - very nice. There's heavy rain at 2200.

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Last update 23 Apr 1997