Taking the (Excess) Worry out of Deployment to Bosnia

Green Bay to Bosnia LogoThe recent announcement that the Bosnian mission for U.S. troops, in particular, CA, has been extended until the end of 1997—and possibly mid-1998— means that a further number of Association members will be deployed. Even though we have had people “on the ground” since late-1995, one thing seems to remain common—a lack of information on what can be done ahead of time for a successful entry into theater.

The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of what Pensacola’s 361st CA Bde. has found to work in preparing for deployment for Joint Guard. You will find it is possible to systematically plan for deployment and not be overly worried about overlooking something of critical importance—The Author)

There are three primary categories to be covered in deploying to Bosnia: training, equipping, and personal preparation. A discussion of each follows.

Training for deployment into Bosnia is not difficult. In fact, I believe it is by far the easiest of the three categories to complete. The essential items you must cover include:

Vehicles. Everyone must possess a HUMMWV license. “Hummers” are the primary means of transport, and the ones you will be signing for are starting to get worn out from the previous rotations. Consequently, you must learn to perform PMCS (preventive maintenance) and how to dispatch them, which can be accomplished during stateside drills. The roads here in Bosnia are terrible and just waiting to ruin your day. The only way to beat them is to practice ahead of time at home.

Weapons. Everyone deploying must qualify with their issue weapons back at home station, as you will not have the time to do so at the mobilization station. You should qualify within three months of mobilization. I highly recommend that all officers and senior NCOs also qualify, or at least familiarize themselves, with the M9 9mm pistol. This is because many of these soldiers will somehow acquire an M9 in Bosnia and need to understand its use.

APFT. Everyone deploying to Bosnia must have passed the PT test within one year of deployment. This means that a smart S3 must schedule the APFT for every MUTA before deploying in order to maximize each soldier’s chance of passing the test.

Language. Let’s face it, the Serbo-Croatian language is not easy to learn, and you will not become conversational in it during a few drills. Contact the DLI Foreign Language Center and ask for Booklet SC0049S, which has the necessary phrases you need and is small enough to fit a BDU pocket. Best of all, it works. At the most, schedule one hour per MUTA for language training. This is one aspect of training which the soldier should do on his own time.

Cold/Hot Weather Training. Bosnia is very cold and wet for much of the year. Also, for several weeks in the summer the temperatures will exceed 100 degrees and mosquitoes will tear you up. Depending on your particular rotation schedule, be sure to plan for cold and/or hot weather training. Pay particular emphasis on signs of cold/heat injury and how to apply immediate first aid. Better yet, teach the soldiers how to avoid the problems altogether. Medevac is not guaranteed to be available as the weather extremes cause flights to be grounded on a routine basis. Here in Sarajevo, with its large runway, all flights were grounded for three days in February. Imagine what it is like in the countryside where there is no electricity or large support staffs to assist in flight operations.

Country-specific Studies. Select several soldiers in the unit who have already taken an active interest in Bosnia and make them the subject-matter experts. Each drill, they should present a 30-minute briefing on what has taken place since the previous drill. Being able to discuss the acronyms IEBL, ZOS, FWF, FRY, IPTF, IFOR/SFOR, LANDCENT, JOC, etc., will really help out a lot. If you want some real on-the-ground detail, have one of your soldiers call my Task Force J3 section here in Sarajevo at commercial 011-387-71-667-751, and we will give you enough information for numerous briefings. Keep in mind we are six hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Standard Time.

Equipping. There are two schools of thought involved. One says the soldier should bring all his field gear and sign nothing out from Central Issue Facility (CIF) at Ft. Bragg. The other is to bring a minimal amount and sign out everything you can from Ft. Bragg. I prefer the latter. I believe that a unit should send its soldiers on active duty with-essentially the following:

  • Goretex jacket and trousers
  • 2-3 sets of polypro underwear
  • Kevlar helmet
  • 4 sets of BDUs
  • 1 rucksack frame with straps
  • 2 duffel bags
  • Weapon cleaning kit

The Ft. Bragg CIF has a full stocking of equipment. You will be offered practically everything imaginable. The soldier retains the right to refuse anything he does not want. What this means is that you can get your rucksack bag (not frame!), flak vest, LBE or assault vest, canteens, ammo pouches, poncho liner, extra duffel bags, etc., all from CIF.

Also, CIF will offer the soldier two pairs of government contract Matterhorn boots. Take them! In the mud and rain of Bosnia they are worth their weight in gold. Be sure to bring several cans of Kiwi Mink Oil or Sno-Seal as these specialty boots do not use black polish.

Taking a minimal amount of unit equipment and thereby using the CIF issue will cut down on the load you will carry to the mob site at Ft. Bragg. Also, the wear and tear of Bosnian field duty will be on “someone else’s” gear. Finally, you will have a light load when demobilizing and returning to home after completion of your tour.

Whatever the soldier chooses to accept or reject, keep in mind that each soldier “in the box” must have a protective mask, kevlar helmet, body armor, LBE/assault vest and personal weapon. This complete uniform is commonly referred to as “full battle rattle” or the “turtle suit.” In the American sector around Tuzla, it is the only uniform you can wear while on duty. In the British, French, and Sarajevo areas there will be a somewhat lesser degree of equipment required for wear. Regardless of your assigned area, you still must have all this equipment to get into Bosnia.

Personal Readiness. This is the biggest item by far. Your S1 and UA will spend most of their duty days getting the deploying troops ready for Bosnia. Therefore, if the admin side of deploying is not straight, then the troops, unit commander and S1/UA will rue the day they were born. It is that simple and cannot be more plainly stated.

Have the S1 or UA immediately call the Mob Station at Ft. Bragg and get the most recent copies of the following:

  • Innoculations required for deployment
  • Finance checklist
  • Field 201 file checklist
  • Medical checklist
  • EUCOM/USAREUR Bosnia training outline (a 40-50 hour block of instruction)

Also, make sure the appropriate OER/NCOERs are completed for the period up to the deployment. You will rotate to Bosnia under a derivative UIC, and this means the ratings from the parent unit will end the day before the deployment orders take effect. If your OER/NCOER situation in your unit is not quite where it should be, it could mean a substantial amount of time will be spent getting the old ratings up to date before even starting on the pre-deployment reviews. Get on this one now!

Once you get the checklists, and while in a MUTA status, immediately schedule your soldiers for the necessary processing at a local military facility. For example, AIDS blood draw, military eyeglasses, DNA swabs, shots, etc., can all be done over a period of two to three drills. The unit commander and sergeant major must demand that all deploying soldiers not miss these MUTAs as make-ups take a lot of valuable staff time to coordinate again. The SI of my parent unit, the 431st CA Bn. out of North Little Rock, did a truly phenomenal job in this area. Indeed, Capt. Zimmerman made a huge difference when we got to Ft. Bragg as not one of our deploying soldiers had a real problem.

Finally, one of the best means of preparing your soldiers for deployment is to get your Family Support Group up and running. This will reassure your departing troops their families will have someone to turn to for assistance during the period of separation. Get an officer or NCO who really cares to be brought onto duty via PSRC, TTAD or ADSW orders. It could well be the one person a commander later points to and says “.. .thank goodness we had enough sense to do this.” The 361st CA Bde. did so and is thankful we did.

Conclusion. By following the above suggestions, a unit can properly prepare for a deployment to Bosnia during the available MUTAs. It is neither hard nor difficult in concept. It is time consuming and does require meticulous planning, as it should. After all, your CA soldiers are going into an imminent danger zone for an extended period of time; and they really deserve the best preparation possible. By following the ideas above and using common sense you and your soldiers can successfully mobilize and deploy to Bosnia.

I look forward to any questions or comments regarding mobilization, especially from those CA soldiers who will be on the fourth rotation this summer.

My address is:
MAJ William R. Bishop
Operation Constant Guard
APO AE 09780

Bosnia is a fascinating country and will provide ample opportunity for all your personal and professional CA skills to be utilized. Get motivated, get mobilized, get over here and make a real difference! (Maj. Bob Bishop is the S3 of Little Rock’s 431st Bn., and is currently serving as Deputy J3, CJ DMTF, Sarajevo.)


Civil Affairs Journal and Newsletter
March / April, 1997

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