Bosnia Diary – Pg. 4

Green Bay to Bosnia LogoMired in a Mine

29 Jan 96, Mon — Ðurðevik

It’s just as bad as I feared. Creamy brown puddles of ankle deep slush as far as the eye can see — which isn’t very far due to continuous fog. The tailings and shale that have been piled up to create this mountain have been ground to mud by the thousands of troops and hundreds of trucks and tanks slopping back and forth over this cozy little corner of hell. The fog briefly lifted about noon; by 1700 visibility was down to 10 meters. I no longer have mud up to my knees — it is now up to my hips.

“Unfortunately, this mud doesn’t flake off — it just becomes rock.”
SGT Scott Argetsinger

There’s lots of people — mostly kids — sneaking through the wire. Most don’t cause any more problem than trying to lift refuse from the burn pit. But today one kid pulled a gun on the gate guard. The kid took off when the guard chambered a round. From the sound of the report — he first pulled a magazine, then a pistol — the kid may have been trying to hand over his weapon in accordance with the peace treaty. A simple miscommunication that could have turned tragic and really harmed our relations with the locals.

Mud at 47th FSB base on top of Visca mine slag heap.
Mud at 47th FSB base on top of Visca mine slag heap.
30 Jan 96, Tue — Ðurðevik

There doesn’t appear to be much CA work to do here. In addition, our AO is duplicating the effort of CPT Marquette’s team down at the bottom of the east end of the quarry, at Camp Dallas, with the Pakistani battalion. CPT Fellinger is trying to set up a meeting between the owner of the mine and the division contracting officer because apparently the US just moved onto the man’s property without asking for his permission or paying him for it. That’s not good civil-military relations on the part of the division. But the 1st AD is already getting a bad rep with both the locals and the other peacekeeping forces: in parts for arrogance, unfriendliness and paranoia. That stems from the strict general orders General Joulwan and Admiral Smith have placed on U.S. forces, which are derived from the objective of the mission: to separate the warring factions, not reconstruct the country, and to be impartial in doing so.

Today a committee of local dignataries — “The Agency for Cooperation with IFOR” — drove up to the front gate wanting to talk to whoever is in charge here. The FSB commander, LTC Self, is the military ‘mayor’ of the brigade support area (BSA) on this mountain. I suggested they be invited down to the briefing tent, have some hot coffee as a welcoming gesture, and then have a pow-wow. The colonel wasn’t interested. However, MAJ Clark, the 47th FSB XO went up to the gate to talk to the committee. They were concerned that one of our concertina fences was blocking a route that the kids use to get to school. The major handled the situation well — pleasing the locals, but not compromising security — by moving the fence back.

I actually saw a 5-ton truck (with a 40-ton winch) get stuck in Bosnian mud up to its fender in Vlasenica.
I actually saw a 5-ton truck (with a 40-ton winch) get stuck in Bosnian mud up to its fender in Vlasenica.
31 Jan 96, Wed — Ðurðevik

Had a sit-down pow-wow with Mr. Bajric’ at Camp Dallas. Mr. Bajric’ again expressed his concern about the routes children use to get to school being blocked off. We also expressed concern about children crossing the wire and digging through garbage. Mr. Bajric’ said that “people are curious”; with children this is understandable. We explained that the reason for the wire and isolation from civilians was to protect the populace, particularly children, from the many vehicles traversing the BSA. There was some confusion over which routes were being referred to by the various participants, so it was proposed that Agency and U.S. military reps walk the routes in question. SGT Argetsinger and I suggested that local dignitaries be invited for a goodwill tour of the BSA.

Bradley ran over a land mine, blowing off a track. No one was hurt, but the route had been heavily travelled since supposedly being cleared of mines.

Last night was very cold. I now have a scratchy throat, but the weather has it advantages: The mud froze, making bog traversal much easier.

Piss tubes at the 47th FSB. The mud was calf deep. There was a tarp around the tubes, but the high winds constantly blew it down, inevitably when old ladies and school children were walking by.
Piss tubes at the 47th FSB. The mud was calf deep. There was a tarp around the tubes, but the high winds constantly blew it down, inevitably when old ladies and school children were walking by.

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1 Feb 96, Thu — Ðurðevik

Had another pow-wow with the local bigwigs. Today we discussed obtaining concession services: showers, laundry, trash removal, vehicle wash and bread. We finally met Mr. Sefket, the director of the mine on which we are squatting. Apparently, he had agreed only to let U.S. forces use this tract for four days. Now there’s almost 1000 troops on it. He isn’t happy because he says he was planning on excavating this tract and our presence has idled 500 workers. There doesn’t seem to be much activity elsewhere in the mine, so he’s probably exagerrating. Still, he is in the right. This isn’t a war: we should have asked for permission first.

There’s some kids penetrating our barbwire here, but for the most part they are not a problem. The kids at Visca, at the bottom of the north end of the quarry, are another story. Besides being beggars, the little MacGyvers have figured out how to make ‘bottle bombs’ by immersing an MRE heater pad in water (which chemically activates the heat) then placing the pad in a plastic water bottle. The expansion caused by the heat eventually causes quite a loud bang. I didn’t jump much — it was so close that if it had been a real threat I never would have heard it.

Two officers in the brigade stepped on a mine and blew off their toes.

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2 Feb 96, Fri — Ðurðevik
Traffic sign on Tuzla Main.
Traffic sign on Tuzla Main.

Took a tour of Mr. Sefket’s proposed alternate site for the BSA. There’s so many mounds that it would require significant grading, not to mention having to be cleared of any possible mines. Factor in tearing down the BSA, moving it, and setting it up again and you are talking an operational delay of several weeks. Yet, that is what Bernie Rall says General Nash is considering doing. And it was his decision that put us here in the first place. What a cluster.

Later we had a very productive meeting with the local business bigwigs. Many nitty-gritty contract details were worked out. Unfortunately, if the BSA is moved the contracts (which will be signed tomorrow) will probably be null & void.

I had to take a piss while I was at the meeting. There are latrine trailers at Camp Dallas — one American, one Paki. The American was closed. I had to use it, but the Paki was horrible beyond description. The only shitter I’ve ever seen that was worse was on a Cree Indian reservation 300 miles north of Winnipeg, Canada. The outhouses there didn’t have any pits; when the crap piled up to butt level, they just picked up the shack and moved it over a few feet.


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