Out With The Old, In With The New

14-21 Mar 1996

Thu 14 Mar

A quiet day, warm and sunny. Last night I sent a message that Dr. Kaplan had an appointment at the hospital at 1100. Who turns up this morning but the Chaplain. We finally realize: Kaplan - Chaplain, a misunderstanding. Turns out Kaplan means chaplain in German. Fortunately we get Kaplan over in time. While waiting for things to happen I beat Baci in chess, redeeming myself after my initial humiliation.

We hike to town. Ray, Baci and I visit Jagoda, and meet Zurma, a former Russian teacher who said she was interested in meeting me. While we were talking, a woman came in. She said she was expelled from her home in 1992 and the police do nothing. Jagoda says she's paranoid schizophrenic (obvious from her behavior.) I wonder what the true story is.

Afterward we catch up with the hospital group, go get a nice cevapi lunch (a pita and sausage sandwich) and get back to Diane about 1500. It was a fun time. Ray and Reschke go to Command and Staff, I work on letters.

We were told that 260 civilians died in Kladanj during the war. The cemetery we visited the other day seemed to hold a lot more but many may be military. A shell fired from Pelemici hit a bus full of medical evacuees bound for Tuzla and killed everyone aboard. Military and civilian volunteers from Kladanj got a force together, stormed Pelemici, routed the Serbs and captured huge stocks of weapons. We heard this story several times; it seems to have been a major rallying point for Kladanj.

We get a bombshell at 2100. Ray comes back from Command and Staff (it goes fast when Chief runs it!) and announces that he and Reschke will be leaving next Wednesday. Reschke is bouncing off the walls, he's so hyper.

Ray tells me I am the oldest man in the battalion. Next oldest are three 45-year olds (SSG Boswell is one). Briscoe is 44.

Fri 15 Mar

Hazy sun and in the 50's. A nice day. We convoy to Demi, then to Tuzla. We have a brief stop in Stupari so the S2, CPT Zeleski, can try to contact the military there. We stop at Tuzla main very briefly. I call Shawn, others go to the PX. We almost don't get out when the gate guards tell us we can't leave without a crew-served weapon. The NCOIC logs us out after Ray explains we came in from Demi and weren't told we needed one.

We get into Tuzla proper for the first (and my only) time. Tuzla is a fairly nondescript town of high-rises and concrete. One lovely little mosque had a wooden minaret and an ornate wooden balcony, almost Bavarian in style (we would later see something quite similar in Tarevo). We take Dr. Kaplan to the Infectious Disease Clinic so he can collect information on hemorrhagic fever. He does get some information but will have to come back to get more (a visit that never quite manages to come off). We're out at 1430, then blast back to Stupari so Psyops and CI can do their business. We get to Demi after 1700, but luckily a convoy comes by in about 15 minutes and we tag on to their rear end.

LT Bishop was at Diane awaiting pickup, but he never checked in, so nobody knew he was there. So instead of swinging by Demi to pick him up, we went straight to Demi from Stupari. So he's stuck here for the night.

The roving guards at LA Linda (Olovo) saw someone with a weapon trying to cross the wire. They fired 24-30 shots with their 9-mm's, and missed. He got off one shot and hit the guard in the shoulder. Now security will really get tight. He was likely trying to steal things, but CPT Zeleski says Islamic extremists had threatened to hit IFOR the week of March 25.

A short reflection on this: the Bosnian Muslims are by far the most secularized, nominal, Westernized Muslims I have ever seen. They are much more comfortable to deal with than the Serbs, who tend to be very restrained, cool, and authoritarian. These Muslims are rather unlikely material for extremism, unless they can be radicalized. The theory on the part of extremists is that the way to radicalize them is to prolong the suffering and convince them it's somebody else's fault.

Sat 16 Mar

A slow morning. Psyops comes over and we march out at 1130. Psyops heads for the radio station, Ray, I and Sgt Novotny head over to Zumbra's for a farewell lunch. Quite a spread: soup, stew, pizza, Bosnian style, fries, breaded ground beef patties and baklava for dessert. Ray announces his departure. Zumbra and I chat in Russian for a bit.

In contrast to the refugees, Zumbra and her husband Mustafi are permanent residents. They have a nice apartment, comfortable and well furnished.

We get back about 1600. A quiet evening.

Sun 17 Mar

I pull radio watch 0300-0600. Scott and Reschke go to Data Dump. It's a quiet morning until 1030. A man who owns a local lime kiln comes over for a social call; he is writing up a project he hopes he can get aid for. Then Mladen's dad drops by. I explain our interpreters are gone (Baci is being dropped off in Vlasenica to go home to Belgrade for a while.) He comes back with Mladen. His mission is to write a letter to Serbs on the other side trying to restore contacts. We spend until about 1230 hashing out a letter to be sent up our chain of command to the other side (where in all likelihood it was trashed.) Then the lime kiln man comes back and we talk about his project and geology until 1400. All this is in Serbo-Croatian, most of it unassisted. Talk about drinking through the fire hose!

Rain at 0300 becomes light snow by 0600, tapers off later with no accumulation.

Mon 18 Mar

Gray all day, with rain and snow late. We went to Tuzla West so Kennedy could confer with the Bosnian 240 Brigade commander. Then we return to Stupari. Chief confers with the local military. We drop off gloves and teddy bears at the local school (gifts from well-meaning folks in the States). From there we go up to Nocajevici, drop bears off at the elder's house. He asks why IFOR is so slow in making repairs (not our job. Also, the war lasted 4 years and we have been in country 55 days.) Sem says "this is the end of the world". I recall Baloka in Kurdistan, which really was the end of the world; this is downtown in comparison. Then we go up to Tarevo for the first time (we tried on 10 Feb but failed because of snow.) A narrow, windy road that would be spectacular on a nice day. We locate the school to drop off more teddy bears. We had met a man in Nocajevici and promised to drop in when we went to Tarevo; by incredible good luck we had parked right in front of his home. We go over to the school first to deliver the bears. It's old, with dilapidated wood floors and group work benches. Then we dropped into our new friend's home to chat and have coffee. When we came out, there was a huge crowd - we are the first (probably only) IFOR in Tarevo, and are a big hit. Tarevo was one place we wished we could find more excuses to visit - it's friendly and in a nice spot. We get back to Demi at 1800 for Command and Staff. McDonald hangs around as usual, so we get over to Diane at 2230. I finish out the rest of radio watch till 2400.

Tue 19 Mar

A slow day, rain and snow until late afternoon. Comfort and Reschke leave at 1000. Psyops comes by. We foot patrol in. Psyops goes to the radio station, Miller and I drop in to Social Welfare, then visit several stores to check on the availability of cleaning supplies for the camps. We hike up the river a short distance so I can get shots of an old water mill, then hike back about 1500. At 1600 Miller accompanies a wagonload of scrap wood in to deliver it to a refugee lady we met several weeks ago. She's mentally not all there (a disproportionate number of refugees were mentally disturbed and unable to care for themselves.) I pull radio watch 1800-2100. At 2130 our replacements get in: SGT Roger Hoskins from the 432d and CPT George Hadrick from Philadelphia. Hadrick had previously been in Mostar with UNPROFOR.

Wed 20 Mar

It's clear, sunny, and quite warm by noon. Scott and I leave Hoskins and Hadrick back to settle in. We stop at Checkpoint Sandra to iron out a minor glitch with the owner of the property there, then go to LA Pat. The kiosk there was a long time in getting set up but is now in operation. Then we go on to Vlasenica. We have no mission, apart from filling out the convoy, but walk around and do the routine quality control check on Bureks.

Chief Kennedy is back from her mission by 1330 but hears that Sekovici radio is down. COL Batiste was scheduled to be interviewed, and there is a rumor he is not coming. We try to raise the Psyops TOC but it's a no-go, and the main TOC couldn't be bothered to send somebody across the street to ask them. So we have to convoy in. We visit the CA TOC, Miller comes back furious. There was a UNHCR meeting and nobody informed us. We waste an hour on this and get to Sekovici at 1500. We drop off teddy bears and Psyops drops off coloring books at the school. Batiste's convoy comes over at 1625, and we're not at the rendezvous point. So we need double damage control, with him and with the school director for having to leave abruptly without the customary pleasantries (both minor glitches, it turns out.) Scott and Sem stay on at the school to smooth things out. Batiste's radio show comes off, and we convoy back to Demi with him. Batiste is going in for Broken Bayonet, a dinner and roast for folks who screwed up in some minor way. We get in to Diane at 2230.

Sem told me he ran into a Serbian refugee boy from Sarajevo who said his family left because "the Turks are coming."

Thu 21 Mar

I pull radio watch 0000-0300, and am exhausted when it's over. I sleep till 0830, and stay back while Scott takes the new guys in to show them around. Then we do a briefing and orientation. While we were out yesterday, Hoskins and Hadrick got up into the overhead loft in the maintenance bay (a tough climb) and got down a mattress left over from the Pakistani occupancy. At 1500 we head in to drop it off to an elderly lady we met earlier. She has a broken hip and was in constant pain with nothing to lie down on. We camouflaged it with a poncho. We had gotten to the house the first time by a roundabout route, and finding it was a comedy of errors. We had people off all over the place looking for it. We finally found the place and dropped off the mattress. It was all worth it. She was in tears and kept repeating over and over "God will reward you". I writing up my report that night, I said "not since Lee divided his forces before Richmond to deceive McClellan has there been such a complex splitting of small forces in defiance of conventional military wisdom." Scott howled. Another entry in my SitRep Hall of Fame.

We learn a lot about Hadrick on the way in and out. He expected to be posted to Sarajevo and was arbitrarily reassigned here. I can't overstress that Hadrick never took it out on us, never tried to use his prior time in Mostar for leverage, and was a team player from the word go. He fit in so well we couldn't have done better if we'd interviewed candidates.

I pull radio watch while everyone else goes to Command and Staff. SPC Hathorn (from Maine - we get some conversation out of our common background) gets a Red Cross call. Apparently he's expecting it (his father dies not long after).

Brown and Root bought our UN conexes out from under us. There is talk of moving people back to Demi but nothing happens. This is the start of a long saga. Chief said that when the trucks came, he pointed to some old conexes outside and had the bay, where the real conexes are located, blocked so they couldn't see in. He and McDonald plan to bluff it out. I am overcome with admiration: "You guys have balls of solid brass."

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Last update 23 Apr 1997