Reserve Unit Packs Up For Bosnia

Green Bay to Bosnia LogoGreen Bay Brigade Taking Packers Banner

The Army Reserve headquarters was bustling Wednesday as members of the 432nd Civil Affairs Brigade packed essential gear for deployment to Bosnia: tents, computers, sleeping bags, M-16 rifles, and one green and gold banner signed by all the Green Bay Packers.

No duffel bag or crate for the banner.

Someone will personally carry it as troops ship out to Fort Bragg, N.C., before heading to Bosnia.

“It’s a high priority to keep that safe,” said Capt. John Pellinen, adding that the Packers flag will probably hang in the unit’s headquarters in Bosnia.

The first group of soldiers from the 432nd, the only military unit in Wisconsin going to Bosnia, will leave bright and early today at 6:45 a.m.

Aside from worries over land mines, frostbite and the war in Bosnia, many of the soldiers were concerned about missing Saturday’s Packers game. However, most will get a chance to watch the Packers tangle with the San Francisco 49ers on television.

Wednesday was a day to pack and get last-minute briefings for the 12-man advance party. The 70-some other members of the unit will ship out in two groups to Fort Bragg on Jan. 13 or 14 and 24th and head to Bosnia a few weeks after that. Soldiers from other units will also be assigned to the 432nd, which is expected to number about 134 overseas.

The civil affairs unit will serve as a liaison between the military and the local government, as well as non-military groups such as the Uniuted Nations and American Red Cross, said group commander Lt. Co. Brian Kilgariff. The unit includes doctors, accountants, veternarians, office managers, lawyers and linguists and will wield laptop computers running Microsoft Office software rather than machineguns.

All have been issued M-16 rifles or 9mm pistols, but will more likely spend their time in the war zone using cellular phones and pens. The 432nd spent six months in the Persian Gulf and helped re-establish government functions in Kuwait.

The unit does not yet know exactly what it will be doing in Bosnia but will be stationed near Tuzla, northeast of Sarajevo, with the rest of the American forces.

“We are not the infantry soldiers. We’re the support soldiers who bridge the gap between the military and civilian authorities,” Kilgariff said Wednesday.

That doesn’t mean they’ll be out of danger. Members of the 432nd will be instructed about detecting land mines and how to avoid stepping on them. Other hazards include cold weather and traveling in areas where roads are practically non-existent.

A majority of the unit’s soldiers are from Wisconsin, and since Bosnia’s winter is much like the snow and cold of the Badger state, the 432nd won’t suffer much of a weather shock. That doesn’t mean they’ll be comfortable.

The troops will live in tents and bed down in sleeping bags. Every soldier will have an extra pair of boots, five changes of clothing, warm weather gear that includes winter jackets and gloves and as many socks as they can stuff in their bags.

“People in Wisconsin are very adept at cold weather,” said Kilgariff, who is from North Carolina.

“I think it’s a real advantage not to be afraid of the cold,” added Capt. Stuart Sarkela, who is second in command. “They know how to stay warm and dry.”

Each soldier will have room to carry a few personal items to remind them of home or make their lives a little more comfortable. Sarkela plans to pack his cribbage board and playing cards, a small reading light, short-wave radio, Bible, and Walkman to listen to Patsy Cline and Linda Ronstadt tapes.

He also plans to practice his Serbo-Croatian with language tapes given to each soldier. Some of the units’ members who already speak German or Russian were sent to a school for five weeks to learn the language. Although the unit will hire local interpreters, it’s important for the soldiers to know basic expressions, said Roger Hoskins, 32, who joined the unit in February and speaks German.

“Europeans are very heart warming. Even if you say hello or thank you, or speak a little of the language, they’ll go out of their way for you,” said Hoskins, a machine operator for Quad/Graphics in Lomira.

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By Meg Jones
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
January 4, 1996


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