Bosnia Diary – Pg. 1

Green Bay to Bosnia LogoPrologue

2 Dec 95, Sat — Green Bay, WI

0700. Training meeting. MAJ Sarkela, the battalion XO, started the meeting by asking, “Is Captain Ponkratz here? His importance is being elevated.” (Jeff Ponkratz is the battalion mobilization officer.) MAJ Bartelme and SSG Nicholson left for Germany. Normal training shifted focus to pre-deployment preparation. I joined the 432nd in January, 1991 — after is was put on alert for the Gulf War, but before it was deployed. The people in the unit that were here for that December’s drill say this is the way things started.

3 Dec 95, Sun — Green Bay, WI

Questions, questions, questions. People interrupting the commander’s briefing wondering about this, that and the other minutiae. Taking up precious time trying to confirm common sense things that they should know and that will change several times before we leave anyway. And this after SSG Smith made a short speech telling everyone to just relax. (SSG Smith and I had exchanged similar opinions on the matter after similar behavior at another briefing earlier in the day.)

Me in the NBC room at the old Reserve Center on Mason & Oneida. The 432nd moved to a new facility on Holmgren Way in July, 1998.
Me in the NBC room at the old Reserve Center on Mason & Oneida. The 432nd moved to a new facility on Holmgren Way in July, 1998.
12 Dec 95, Tue — Milwaukee, WI

Spent all but one of the days since drill up until 1:30 or 2:00 a.m. Then up at 6:00 a.m. to go to work. Four hours of sleep is more than enough when one is physically and/or mentally busy, but I am in training class for my new job. (I started a new programming job about five weeks ago.) It’s really rough trying to stay awake in those classes. I’m pumping down a cup of coffee or a can of Diet Coke every hour all day long and barely staying concious. I’ve been keeping those kinds of hours at night because I am trying to get everything ready for when we leave. I’m keeping my “Yugo Digest” newsletter going up to the last moment, plus I want to be sure my Bosnia web site — plus my other pages — are in good enough condition that I can leave them for a year and people will know why I am gone and why the pages haven’t been updated. It doesn’t help that my internet connection is down tonight and my gig hard drive went on the fritz yesterday.

18 Dec 95, Mon — Milwaukee, WI

Put my Bosnia site up. (It’s what you are reading right now.) I wanted to be in Green Bay today to help prepare for deployment, but my employer doesn’t want to let me go until the last second. I started a few weeks ago, so they are not happy about this. Rented a storage locker; I’m taking a load from my apartment with me to work each day, using lunch time to transfer it to my locker.

Muddy aftermath of a Bora (a 100mph windstorm) at 47th FSB near Ðurðevik.
Muddy aftermath of a Bora (a 100mph windstorm) at 47th FSB near Ðurðevik.
26 Dec 95, Tue — Milwaukee, WI

Made arrangements to have Scott Naness maintain/update this diary while I am in Bosnia.

29 Dec 95, Thu — Milwaukee, WI

0430. Reporter called last night with specific dates and times we were supposed to be leaving. I told her I wasn’t allowed to confirm that sort of information. She asked how I felt. I told her “It’s what I joined the Army to do. I didn’t join to sit on my butt collecting a check for 20 years.” She asked how long I’ve been in the unit. I said, “Since Desert Storm. I joined the unit because it was going to Saudi.” Then I spent the next 10.5 hours (right up to now!) trying to get myself together for this weekend’s drill. That call has me kinda spooked. I want to leave as little to chance as possible in case they do deploy me earlier than expected (like during drill).

30 Dec 95, Sat — Green Bay, WI
WRTOYA log book. Bosnia's mud made it impossible to keep anything clean.
WRTOYA log book. Bosnia’s mud made it impossible to keep anything clean.

Normally we have drill the first full weekend of the month. That would mean a week from now, but we have people leaving for Bosnia starting this week. (I don’t leave until January 22.)

Today we had lots of classes: mobilization, convoy procedures, react to ambush, mine awareness, rules of engagement (ROE), first aid, subversion and espionage directed against the Army (SAEDA) and code of conduct. ROE tell you when and how much you can shoot back; it’s no surprise that the ROE brief was the focal point of the day.

It has been stressed in nearly every Bosnia-related appearance by Clinton administration officials that the ROE will be “robust”, that U.S. troops will be the baddest dog, etc. Basically, that because this is a NATO mission — not a UN mission — we won’t be subject to the same gradually increasing hostilities that UNPROFOR was. As the President said in his Monday, November 27, speech to the nation: “Risks to our troops will be minimized … They will have the authority to respond immediately … with overwhleming force.”

Thus, the class was contentious and raised quite a few worries. To quote one old sergeant: “It seems like the same crap as Vietnam.”

The speech was intended to raise support for a mission that polls have shown is viewed skeptically by the American public. The ROE brief was classified, as are the rules themselves. Draw your own conclusions.

2 Jan 96, Tue — Milwaukee, WI

But first, this brief musical interlude …

It's beginning to look like Bosnia
Everywhere I go
There is mud up to your knees
Snipers in the trees
And land mines lurking underneath the snow
It's beginning to look a lot like Bosnia
On the Sava's shore
If the bridges will not float
Then we'll have to take a boat
To get home once more

By SFC Steve Dutch

(Sung to tune of “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”)

Map of central Bosnia, with our routes (green) and commonly visited towns (red), and other important locations (yellow).
Map of central Bosnia, with our routes (green) and commonly visited towns (red), and other important locations (yellow).
8 Jan 96, Mon — Milwaukee, WI

Last Friday, I heard from my team leader, CPT Matt Fellinger that my orders are in the system and that it’s only a matter of time until I get them. Today I got them. Even though this deployment will be a hat trick for me, and I’ve known for weeks that I would be going, it’s still amazing how that one sheet of paper focuses the mind and gets the heart pumping.


This was my last diary entry prior to leaving home. The next eight weeks of entries, as well as several articles, were sent as HTML files on a floppy to Scott Naness, so he could post them in semi-realtime on his web server.

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