Bosnia Diary – Pg. 3

Green Bay to Bosnia LogoArrival in Tuzla

24 Jan 96, Wed — Tuzla Main

Spent the night down in Darmstadt, Germany, in a barracks that looks like it was once a Gestapo prison. Did the Three S’s, then changed t-shirts for the first time in about four days.

Wheels up at 1201. These C-17s don’t screw around: when they accelerate, they accelerate fast.

Landed in Tuzla at 1357. Cold, wet and breezy — all things considered, not too bad. We’re spending the night in a stone building just off the main air base. The Norwegian unit that got evicted to accomodate us built little, wooden apartments — “chicken coops” — inside. We don’t know if we are leaving tomorrow or not so I’ll gamble that it will be less of a hassle to freeze than to dig into the bottom of one of my three duffel bags to find my sleeping bag.

The mandatory uniform here is helmet, flak vest (which protects against nothing but cold), web gear, weapon and gas mask (even though there is no NBC threat in the AO). We are the only one of the 30-odd countries in this op that are carrying all this crap. Everyone else is in soft caps & weapon. America is an odd country that way — no amount of risk, no matter how small, is acceptable despite any cost that may be paid in reducing that risk. Troops are made to wear equipment of dubious value — such as the flak vest — because it ‘might help if you get shot’. Maybe it’s just me, but shouldn’t the emphasis be on avoiding getting shot at all? Well, being able to move quickly is a major factor in avoiding being shot, but the load we carry makes that impossible.

This is an airborne infantry platoon, not a fuel point. Fuel toads that way!

25 Jan 96, Thu — Tuzla Main

‘Welcome to Bosnia’ briefing put-on by division staff. LTC Clay, 1st Armored Division G-5, made a major emphasis on safety, especially mines and cold weather injuries. Psychological Operations have been renamed ‘Military-Civil Relations’, but still perform the same psyops missions. War crimes and POW info should be passed forward but not acted on. Some quotes from the briefing:

  • “If it doesn’t have gravel or asphalt on it, it isn’t cleared [of mines].” SGT McKinney, G-5 NCOIC
  • “That flak vest isn’t a bullet-proof vest. It isn’t even a flak vest. It’s a thorn vest. That’s about all it’s good for.” SGT McKinney, G-5 NCOIC
  • “We’re doing a military mission, not a humanitarian or reconstruction mission.” MAJ Harrington, Asst. G-5
  • “Springtime in Bosnia means guys like to go out and kill each other.” MAJ Harrington, Asst. G-5
Another victim of Bosnia's roads.
Another victim of Bosnia’s roads.
26 Jan 96, Fri — Tuzla Main

Today we actually left the air base and drove out into some of the nearby villages. The only paved road — and intermittently, due to numerous potholes, at that — goes past the air base. All the rest are dirt or hard-packed gravel. But even the gravel doesn’t do much good as all the drizzle and sleet turns the gravel dust into a 1/2″ to 1″ deep grey, pasty ooze which splashes up to knee high. I have three day old mud on my uniform.

We stopped at two places where the home owners claimed IFOR had caused “maneuver damage”. Once apparently when Clinton’s helicopter caravan flew over during his photo op tour of Tuzla. The homeowner had claimed 3000 DM (appx. $2000), but was negotiated down to 550 DM. Everything runs on Deutschmarks here — not Bosnian dinars — for some odd reason. Almost every home had a garden, hay bales and chickens; most were made of cement frames and cinder blocks. Everyone was slender except for the older women, who looked like your prototypical east-European babushkas. It would take awhile, but each place we stopped people would eventually gather around. I saw enough women, but the only people who stopped to talk were men, boys and a few little girls. The little girls were so cute too. :-)

1st Armored Division band blocking convoy. General Nash had piorities.
1st Armored Division band blocking convoy. General Nash had piorities.
27 Jan 96, Sat — Tuzla Main

We thought we would be spending at least a few weeks here, so last night we unloaded all our gear from our Humvee. Early this morning we were told we would be going to the forward support battalion (FSB) this afternoon. Then later in the morning we were told we would be going to the FSB today. FSBs are supply and repair guys. No one on the team can figure out why an FSB would need CA, and everyone is bummed that we are losing our relatively plush quarters.

How much of the IFOR mission is a UN mission? I don’t know, but all the white utility vehicles used by the UN are still white but sport “IFOR” insignia instead.

Went to the latrine to take a dump and it had just been cleaned. My ass was in ecstasy!

28 Jan 96, Sun — Tuzla Main

Packed up and ready to roll at 0800. Thought we were going on a mission into Serbian territory, but we were pulled off that because the FSB was supposed to pick us up. SGT McKinney said between 0800-1200; FSB said between 0900-1000; MAJ Neal (Asst. G-5) said it would be closer to 1200. Looks like we’ll be here again tonight.

47th FSB convoy clusterfuck.Guess not. CSM MacDonald from the FSB showed up at 1220. We went to a wait point by 1st AD HQ, then sat for two hours right where the sergeant major told us to — in the middle of an intersection. (Several traffic jams ensued.) Then we drove 500 meters and waited another 25 minutes. Then we drove 50 meters and waited 6 minutes at a gridlocked intersection. Then we drove 100 meters past the intersection into a dead end. Of course we then had to back the whole convoy — including a semi — around the way it came. Then we drove a kilometer and waited 32 minutes. And we still had not left base. We finally made it off post at 1544. The semi broke down an hour later, near a huge open pit mine. We kept driving after a 10 minute delay. Winding back and forth over the sides of the mine until we reached the top of a mountain. I thought for sure the lead vehicle was lost. I wish it was, because what I saw in the dark of our arrival was neither pleasant or pretty. I’m not looking forward to daylight.

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