Mired in a Mine
Fri, 16 Feb 96 — Ðurðevik
The threat level is up because a pair of Bosnian Serb officers were captured and extradited for war crimes and because French troops raided a mujahideen stronghold west of Sarajevo. As a result we are back up to a four-vehicle rule in the quarry area. But that’s only for 2BCT, the 30th Med is a different brigade and so they can make their own rules. Their rule is two-vehicles within the quarry. Anyway, it screws us because in order to even call civilians — such as the Agency for Cooperation with IFOR — we have to get a four-vehicle convoy together to go to Pak Bat II. It’s not too hard to get a second vehicle to go make a phone call, but the 47th FSB company commanders don’t want to give up three vehicles just so we can make phone calls. I don’t blame them on that account, but on the other hand it’s not like their people are being overworked either. (It’s not just in the battalion TOC that people spend a significant part of their day playing computer games.) It looks like in order to get anything done we are going to have to tag along with the 30th Med CA team.
There’s a quarry base cluster meeting every morning at 30th Med in Visca. It’s a chance to get off the mountain and since the MAJ Clark, the 47th FSB XO, needs three more vehicles, we serve as convoy fodder. I saw my puppy there playing with another dog. It was good to see he was doing okay. The dog the BSA troops had as a pet was given away to some people in Ðurðevik, so hopefully if the 30th Med has to get rid of the animals they will perform the same act of decency as did the 47th FSB.
Mon, 19 Feb 96 — Ðurðevik
I continued working on the CA database in the morning. In the afternoon we went with the 30th Med G-5 section to a UNHCR meeting in Tuzla. I thought the 47th FSB ran some screwed up convoys, but the 30th Med guys take the cake. They’re nice enough people, but they were extremely nervous and obviously without field or convoy experience. The convoy commander didn’t even have a radio in his vehicle.
I stayed out of the meeting, guarding the vehicles with Libassi and Argetsinger so I could do some ‘normality indicators’ at the nearby shops. Normality indicators are the prices of civilian items — I swear, including men’s underwear — number of tiles on roofs, chickens in the yard, etc. Which of course we need four vehicles to do — and try explaining that to some company commander who’s scrapping for convoy fodder of his own. Normality indicators are the NATO way of measuring victory — is the economy, the country, returning to normal? This country has never existed as an independent entity. Besides, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states that the very act of observing something changes it. And so it is here. Prices have inflated because of the U.S. presence. (Even though U.S. forces are not allowed to have any contact with the locals.) Normality indicators are really no more relevant than a body count, nor any different other than counting chickens instead of bodies. There’s a PX open at the Tuzla air base, but there is nothing where we are at. So we use ‘normality indicators’ as an excuse to buy civilian stuff.
I bought a burek from a road side stand and sodas from a shop. I wanted to try cevapi, but the stand was out. I’ve had burek before. (I’m familiar with the dish because Milwaukee, where I am from, has a sizable population from Yugoslavia.) Burek is a ‘pie’ of meat and cheese between paper thin layers of bread. It is my favorite ethnic dish, and the local variety was delicious.
About 2300 a bora kicked up. (A bora is a cold, strong wind that strikes quickly and carries winds up to 58 knots.) Shit was flying everywhere. Concertina was rolling around like tumble weed. We tried to batten down our hatches, but eventually gave up. After a few hours we purposefully collapsed our tent. It was a wise move because we suffered much less damage than most other tents. Argetsinger and I tried to sleep in the Humvee; Libassi and CPT Fellinger slept under what was left of the tent.
Tue, 20 Feb 96 — Ðurðevik
It looks like we got bombed last night. The BSA was devastated as if a tornado had gone through a trailer park. It lost 26 tents, 15 heaters, 15 sleeping bags, four light sets, and at least two antennae. Eight soldiers were injured, including one electrocution. Thankfully none of the injuries were serious. Amazingly by 0930 most of the tents were back up. Sandbagging, to hold down tent flaps and stakes, was a base-wide priority. My team even helped the Serb girls fill sand bags. They were pretty shook up, but our Muslim male translators took everything in stride.
I felt like crap all day — nauseous, and eventually developing a case of the shits. The shits are probably due to poor hygiene. My hands are constantly muddy, even though I wash before I eat and use a wet wipe after visiting the latrine. I also try too avoid putting my hands on my food. It might have been the burek, except Libassi ate it also and didn’t have any problems. Even if it was the burek, I would still eat it again because it is pointless to visit a foreign country and not get to experience the local food and culture. (I also got a bad case of Saddam’s Revenge after eating some Kurdish home cooking in northern Iraq, in Spring, 1991.)
I couldn’t get through to 2BCT S-5 all day, so they must have got waxed too. CPT Chun, 47th FSB S-3, said there were gusts in the brigade sector of up to 100 mph. Unfortunately, they are expecting another bora tonight.
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