Water Main and Sewage Protests

30 Mar - 7 Apr 1996

Sat 30 Mar

A quiet day. Sunny and warm in the morning, clouding over with rain by evening. I spend much of the time on reports. I spell check one document, the checker gets to MAJ Dixon (AKA Dark Helmet). the spell checker can't find Dixon, suggests Dioxin instead. It's appropriate. He's nicknamed Dark Helmet because with his Kevlar on he looks like the character from Spaceballs, and he takes it with good grace. One morning in the TOC MAJ Jarred called for silence, hit a button on a tape player, and out blared the Darth Vader theme from Star Wars! After a lot of thought, I realized that without his helmet on he reminds me of a lot of guys I know in geology - I can easily see him in a flannel shirt on a field trip. He's actually OK personally but he is a pain on radio watch because he is a workaholic and keeps pestering people until late in the evening for details that could just as easily wait. LT McDonald once said his motto is "The work day begins at Close of Business."

I once tried the grammar checker on a report I wrote about interviews with some refugees. I wrote that one woman had no idea what happened to her husband. The grammar checker said "gender-specific term - try spouse' instead. Somebody definitely started toilet training way too early!

We hiked down to the PTT office and check on that bill for repairs on the phone lines (they need money up front because they simply don't have money to do the work otherwise.) This has been hanging for 2-1/2 months. Then we stop for coffee with Jagoda and introduce our new team members. When we get back, we find an AVLB parked by our bridge. This is a nice study in deployed and transported bridges, so I get some nice photos. radio watch from 1800 to 2100.

Dosen and Felmet are here from CI getting their vehicle serviced. Dosen regales us with a tale of an (illegal - violates General Order 1) tryst with a visiting Navy female in one of the M113's at the front gate of Demi. He and other native speakers refer to DLI-trained linguists as Turbo Serbos.

Sun 31 Mar

Sleep in till 0900! Miller and Hoskins go to data dump. I spend the day on personal time. This has been a slow week for me, and boy did I need one. Rain turns to snow at 0500 and continues lightly all day. I pull radio watch 1800-2100.

Mon 1 Apr

Up at 0530, out at 0630. I call Shawn at 0700. Latest catastrophe on the home front: Chris's ceiling, which is old-fashioned lath and plaster, collapsed. Shawn heard a noise, went to investigate, and found the ceiling on the floor.

On the way through the checkpoint (Sandra is no more - it's now W30 or Whiskey three-zero) we spot a skull by the roadside. The guards there know all about it. Scott reports it in when we get back in the evening. (It disappears - what happened to it we don't know.) We drop Dosen and SSG Collins off at LA Pat, then go to Sekovici to talk to the mayor about the radio program. We had heard he was accusing us of spreading false information, and was also passing around a story that a Serb had crossed the ZOS and was lynched, but he had his best face on for us and soft-pedaled. The lynching story is bogus. We briefed him on the Peace Accords. Brief is the word. He zipped through the briefing book in five minutes.

The afternoon is solid shut-outs. We go to Vlasenica to pick up the bill for installing phones to LA Pat but the director is out. Then we go to Milici. Dr. Kaplan tries to assess the hospital but nobody will talk without the director's OK. So we drop to our fallback plan and try to assess the lumber mill. Same story.

Two Stars and Stripes reporters come by the bus station (our rally point) looking for a demobilized Serbian soldier to interview. They follow us back to Vlasenica. We try the PTT office again, and Chief Kennedy lets the reporters use the interpreter to talk to people in the hotel. Next thing we know, they're gone and we have no idea where they are for 45 minutes. Scott is furious.

We get back to Demi for Command and Staff at 1800. Chief Black tells me we got our civilian phones today.

Tue 2 Apr

A quiet day. We're up at 0600, go in to Demi to meet with locals again about the phones and the road. Then we return to Demi and foot march in with MAJ Prusiecki. We try to talk to the mayor about street cleaning but he's out. LT Bishop goes in to Universal Promet; they had purchased cleaning supplies after we specifically told them not to until we had final word on purchasing. He told them we were only buying 50 sets of brooms, mops, etc. instead of the 180 we originally thought. They were not happy but it wasn't as nasty as I feared. Prusiecki and Levanetz hike back to catch their convoy. We stay in, basically killing time, until 1400. There's a little cul-de-sac with a couple of small clubs; most of the patrol waited there. Then we touched base with Psyops and met with the baker. He has a big new oven and treated us to a lunch of pastries, lamb, potatoes and fish (he also supplies baked goods to Diane and Demi, so we stay in touch and keep each other happy). We finally get back about 1530.

There's a package from Marcie and the Journal of Geoscience Education - page galleys, but of the wrong paper!

If our total mobilization is 179 days less terminal leave, this is hump day (after it was all over, hump day was four days earlier.)

Wed 3 Apr

Miller and Hadrick leave at 0630 for Pale. I get up at 0830, shower, write letters. It's a quiet day until 1500. Frost and his team come by. O'Neill, Zunker and Poh drop in. Hoskins goes in with Frost to show him where we get cleaning supplies. Meanwhile, the engineers at Demi break a water line while fixing the road to Imamovici. The whole of Kladanj is out of water. Dark Helmet takes charge. What's worse than a problem Dark Helmet can't fix? One he can. This is a classic Hohenfels CA problem. The water company has already been out on site and will be back tomorrow to fix it. Nevertheless, the XO sends in a convoy to take me and LT Bishop to the water company. They can't fix it today - people are on other jobs. For a town that was under virtual siege, a problem like this is trivial. Dark Helmet recalls Miller; Hadrick stays on at Brigade fro the trip to Pale. (Miller's response when he gets back: why call me? Dutch could handle it.) We are to go over to the water company at 0700 to link up. There is no need at all for most of this - I could have done most of it myself on the phone.

Thu 4 Apr

A long busy day. Radio watch 0300-0600. We convoy to the water company at 0730, only to be told that they had people on site since 0630 (we were supposed to escort them.) Scott and I go to Demi and observe. It's a chilly, drizzly day. This weather killed Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown in a plane crash today. At 1100 LT Bishop takes me into Kladanj. We pick up cleaning supplies and talk to the mayor, and get back to the work site about 1400, just as things are about to wrap up. It turns out the mayor was unaware of the problem because water outages are frequent due to the antiquated pipes. We expect to catch a convoy back but the BMO comes in for a Joint Military Council planning meeting at 1900. I call Shawn and the folks at NAS (talk to Pat, the secretary). Scott and I go to the Holy Thursday service, get out about 2030, leave for Diane about 2130. The weather turns to light snow about 2000. I get to bed at 2215, after 19 hours on duty.

Fri 5 Apr

A dusting of snow in the morning. Hadrick and Hoskins convoy to Tuzla at 0900. Hoskins got a call in to Jennifer before that.

About 1000- we hike in to the Social Welfare Office with the last of the Teddy Bears (Thank God!). We're having coffee when we get a radio call to come back on the double (proving the value of our walkie-talkies). We drop off the bears and run. We join Chief Kennedy to go over to Demi. Civilians are protesting a sewage lagoon built on the road between LA Pat and the ZOS checkpoint. We hear there are lots of civilians and police there, plus of all things Portuguese reporters. We pick up some scouts and head on out, only to stop. Bachi is at Demi; he got out and didn't realize we were leaving immediately (this was not one of his best days!) We retrieve him and head out. Halfway to the checkpoint, we get a call; the mission is off. Brigade will meet the police chief and mayor of Vlasenica, and he in return has called off his boys.

We go back to Demi, then to Diane. I do reports, and we get two damage claims. One is for torn up land, the other for auto damage; both sound bogus.

I go to Command and Staff and do the briefing; Scott swaps radio watch with me. It went well but I may have lost a point with MAJ Jarred. He didn't realize the river by the sewage site was the same one that flows through Kladanj and Sekovici (we only drive along it every day!). I corrected that; should have let it slide. No harm done, as it turns out.

We also learn that a bridge at LA Pat is damaged; we'll have to check that out.

Baci and Scott are at odds. Baci is annoyed because he can't go into town off duty. He's slow getting into uniform and puts personal things ahead of the mission at times. Scott snapped at him a couple of times and Baci kept his distance much of the day. The snafu at Demi didn't help a bit.

Sat 6 Apr

Clears in the morning, sunny and lovely all day. We're up at 0700. MAJ Bestul calls with a warning that the sewage site might flare up today, but nothing happens.

The plan was for us to link up with Kennedy and go inspect damage claims. Miller and Hadrick went in to the water company to pick up bills for the damage the other day but the bills weren't ready yet. They also stopped in to see Jagoda. They were back by 1400 but Chief never showed up. At 1800 Hadrick and I fill out a convoy to assist in a vehicle recovery on the mountain between Stupari and Brlosci - A Hummer lost a front wheel. We were back in an hour.

I watched RoboCop II on video and pulled radio watch 2100-2400.

Hoskins is very happy. We let him hop on a Tuzla morale run to see his fiancee Jennifer, who flew up from Gorni Vakuf via chopper. They linked up and spent a few hours together.

For two weeks we have had no door handle on the driver's door of the Hummer. We use wire to close it. Yesterday Hoskins leaned against the door and fell out. There have been a lot of jokes at his expense. Tonight I presented him with "Airborne Hummer Driver" wings drawn on green tape - a winged Humvee with somebody falling out of it.

Sun 7 Apr

Easter. Five years ago today we left Kuwait. A pleasant sunny day. We plan a quiet day but about 1100 we get a call. Supposedly somebody cut down a tree at the sewage lagoon and a demonstration was in progress. We convoy in to Demi and pick up a scout escort.

As we pass through the checkpoint, we run into a family split by the war. One sister lives in Kladanj, one in Vlasenica. They haven't seen each other in four years. Baci was the go-between in this, carrying letters back and forth. They are thrilled to see us pass through and toss a can of beer to Baci as we go by.

The tree, if it fell at all, fell naturally and had been cleared away by the time we got there. There were five Vlasenica cops on hand to keep order. We sit and have coffee with them. I shot a picture and the cops tensed up, but relaxed when I explained it was solely to illustrate the sorts of things we do in the field. While we are there, MAJ Jarred comes by and comes over to see what's up. He is highly amused by the whole scene in a head-shaking kind of way.

As long as we're out, we swing by LA Pat to check out the damaged bridge and minor property damage, then go back to Demi. I caught the last half of Easter Mass. Scott and Hadrick do more damage claims and don't get back until 1700. Scott gets the scouts to give us an escort back.

The heather is blooming and all of a sudden the swallows are back. Spring is here (but winter gets in a couple more shots!) This was a busy day in a good sort of way. So much for the holiday.

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Last update 23 Apr 1997