Author's Military Service in Bosnia-Herzegovina, SFOR, CO CANIC, Sarajevo, 21 June to 30 Dec 1997
Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1997
Notes from my tour of duty as Commanding Officer of the Canadian National Intelligence Centre (CANIC) with the Canadian Contingent of the NATO led Peace Stabilization Force (CC SFOR) in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina from 21 June to 30 December 1997.
Coat of Arms
Bosnia and Herzegovina, abbreviated BiH or B&H, sometimes called Bosnia–Herzegovina stands in Southeast Europe, located within the Balkans, with Sarajevo as its capital and largest city.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is bordered by Serbia to the east, Montenegro to the southeast, and Croatia to the north and southwest. In the south it has a narrow coast on the Adriatic Sea, which is about 20 kilometres (12 miles) long and surrounds the town of Neum. The inland Bosnia region has a moderate climate, with hot summers and cold, snowy winters. In the central and eastern interior of the country the geography is mountainous, in the northwest moderately hilly, and in the northeast predominantly flatland. The smaller southern region, Herzegovina, has a Mediterranean climate and mostly mountainous topography.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has been settled since at least the Upper Paleolithic but permanent human settlement traces back to the Neolithic age, during which time it was inhabited by cultures such as Butmir, Kakanj, and Vu?edol. After the arrival of the first Indo-Europeans, it was populated by several Illyrian and Celtic civilizations. Culturally, politically, and socially, the country has a rich but complex history, having been first settled by the South Slavic peoples that populate the area today from the 6th through to the 9th centuries. In the 12th century the Banate of Bosnia was established, which evolved into the Kingdom of Bosnia in the 14th century, after which it was annexed into the Ottoman Empire, under whose rule it remained from the mid-15th to the late 19th cenries. The Ottomans brought Islam to the region, and altered much of the cultural and social outlook of the country. This was followed by annexation into the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy,, which lasted up until the First World War. In the interwar period, Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and after the Second World War, it was granted full republic status in the newly formed Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Following the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the republic proclaimed independence in 1992, which was followed by the Bosnia War, lasting until late 1995 and culminating with the Dayton Agreement.
The country is home to three main ethnic groups or, officially, constituent peoples, as specified in the constitution. Bosniaks are the largest group of the three, with Serbians second, and Croatians third. A native of Bosnia and Herzegovina, regardless of ethnicity, is usually identified in English as a Bosnia. Minorities include Jews, Roma, Ukranians and Turks. Bosnia and Herzegovina has a bicameral legislature and a three-member Presidency composed of a member of each major ethnic group. However, the central government's power is highly limited, as the country is largely decentralized and comprises two autonomous entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and Republika Srpska (RS), with a third unit, the Br?ko District, governed under local government. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of 10 cantons.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a developing country with an economy dominated by the industry and agriculture sectors, followed by the tourism and service sectors, the former of which has seen a significant rise in recent years. The country has a social security and universal healthcare system, and primary- and secondary-level education is tuition-free.
The Bosnian War, 1992 - 1995
On 18 November 1990, multi-party parliamentary elections were held throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. A second round followed on 25 November, resulting in a national assembly where communist power was replaced by a coalition of three ethnically-based parties. Following Slovenia and Croatia's declarations of independence from Yugoslavia, a significant split developed among the residents of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the issue of whether to remain within Yugoslavia (overwhelmingly favored by Serbs) or seek independence (overwhelmingly favored by Bosniaks and Croats).
The Serb members of parliament, consisting mainly of the Serb Democratic Party members, abandoned the central parliament in Sarajevo, and formed the Assembly of the Serb People of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 24 October 1991, which marked the end of the tri-ethnic coalition that governed after the elections in 1990. This Assembly established the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina in part of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 9 January 1992. It was renamed Republika Srpksa in August 1992. On 18 November 1991, the party branch in Bosnia and Herzegovina of the ruling party in the Republic of Croatia, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), proclaimed the existence of the Croatian Community of Herzog-Bosnia in a separate part of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina with the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) as its military branch. It went unrecognized by the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which declared it illegal.
A declaration of the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 15 October 1991 was followed by a referendum for independence on 29 February/1 March 1992, which was boycotted by the great majority of Serbs. The turnout in the independence referendum was 63.4 percent and 99.7 percent of voters voted for independence. Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence on 3 March 1992 and received international recognition the following month on 6 April 1992. The Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was admitted as a member state of the United Nations on 22 May 1992. Serbian leader Slobodan Miloševiše and Croatian leader Franjo Tubman are believed to have agreed on a partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina in March 1991, with the aim of establishing Greater Serbia and Greater Croatia.
Following Bosnia and Herzegovina's declaration of independence, Bosnian Serb militias mobilized in different parts of the country. Government forces were poorly equipped and unprepared for the war. International recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina increased diplomatic pressure for the Yugoslave People's Army (JNA) to withdraw from the republic's territory, which they officially did in June 1992. The Bosnian Serb members of the JNA simply changed insignia, formed the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS), and continued fighting. Armed and equipped from JNA stockpiles in Bosnia, supported by volunteers and various paramilitary forces from Serbia, and receiving extensive humanitarian, logistical and financial support from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Republika Srpska's offensives in 1992 managed to place much of the country under its control. The Bosnian Serb advance was accompanied by the ethnic cleansing of Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats from VRS-controlled areas. Dozens of concentration camps were established in which inmates were subjected to violence and abuse, including rape. The ethnic cleansing culminated in the Srebrenica massacre of more than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in July 1995, which was ruled to have been a genocide by the ICTY. Bosniak and Bosnian Croat forces also committed war crimes against civilians from different ethnic groups, though on a smaller scale. Most of the Bosniak and Croat atrocities were committed during the Bosniak-Croat war, a sub-conflict of the Bosnian War that pitted the Army of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH) against the HVO. The Bosniak-Croat conflict ended in March 1994, with the signing of the Washington Agreement, leading to the creation of a joint Bosniak-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which amalgamated HVO-held territory with that held by the ARBiH.
The Dayton Accord and the Implementation Force (IFOR)
The General Framework Agreement for Peace, commonly known as the Dayton Peace Accord, was signed in December 1995. To ensure compliance with this agreement, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution which authorized the establishment of a multinational peace implementation force (IFOR). IFOR was sent to maintain cease-fire and inter-entity boundary lines. Its mission was also to foster a secure environment in which civilian organizations could carry out their responsibilities, which included the supervision of elections, the coordination of the return of refugees, economic recovery and monitoring and training of local police. Without the assistance of IFOR, the peace agreements would not have endured, nor would the civilian aspects of the Dayton Peace Accord have been achieved.
Canadians in Bosnia-Herzegovina, IFOR
Canadian AVGP Cougar, IFOR, on patrol during Operation ALLIANCE.
Canada contributed CF members to IFOR under the name Operation ALLIANCE. This operation had 1,047 personnel in a composite organization that consisted of a Canadian-led Multinational Brigade Headquarters, a reconnaissance squadron, a mechanized infantry company, an engineer squadron, as well as a Canadian National Command Element and National Support Element.
In addition to the provision of brigade headquarters and signals personnel for IFOR’s multinational brigade (2 Canadian Multinational Brigade and, later, 5 Canadian Multinational Brigade), the CF deployed an armoured reconnaissance squadron, an infantry company, an engineer squadron, a national support element, an advanced surgical centre and a military police platoon.
The first Canadian infantry battle group deployed was drawn from units based in Petawawa, Ontario, and Gagetown, New Brunswick, while the second came from Valcartier, Quebec. Their tasks included establishing freedom of movement throughout the area of operations, supervising the withdrawal and separation of the previously warring factions and their heavy weapons, patrolling cease fire lines, supervising the removal of land mines and unexploded ordnance, settling disputes and helping with the redeployment of UN personnel and equipment still in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Canadian sailors and air force personnel also served in support of IFOR as part of the ongoing maritime blockade (NATO Operation SHARP GUARD) and enforcement of the “no-fly zone” (NATO Operation DECISIVE ENDEVOUR) in the region.
On 20 December 1996, one year after the creation of IFOR, a NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) replaced IFOR.
Canadians in Bosnia-Herzegovina, SFOR
In December of 1996, when the IFOR phase ended, a stabilization force (SFOR) was created in order to secure the environment for local authorities and international agencies. The troops of SFOR patrolled Bosnia-Herzegovina so that people could go about their daily business without fear. Part of a major international effort to help Bosnia-Herzegovina reshape itself as a democratic European nation, SFOR had a mandate to deter violence and provide the safe, secure environment needed for the consolidation of peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Its goal was to promote a climate in which the peace process could be sustained without the presence of NATO forces.
Canada's participation in SFOR, conducted under Operation PALLADIUM, began with approximately 1,200 personnel: an infantry battalion group with tactical helicopter support; an armoured reconnaissance squadron; an engineer squadron; an administrative company; a National Support Element; and a National Command Element.
In December of 2003, due to a vast improvement of the security situation in Bosnia, NATO announced the reduction in the number of SFOR troops from 12,000 to 7,000 by June 2004. In keeping with NATO direction, Canada's military participation was similarly reduced to about 650 CF members in April 2004.
Video: why we are here, Sarajevo, 1997.
The Stabilisation Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (SFOR) was a NATO-led multinational peacekeeping force deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina after the Bosnian war. Although SFOR was led by NATO, several non-NATO countries contributed troops. It was replaced by EUFOR Operation ALTHEA in December 2004. The stated mission of SFOR was to "deter hostilities and stabilize the peace, contribute to a secure environment by providing a continued military presence in the Area Of Responsibility (AOR), target and co-ordinate SFOR support to key areas including primary civil implementation organisations, and progress towards a lasting consolidation of peace, without further need for NATO-led forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina".
UNPROFOR was composed of nearly 39,000 personnel. It was composed of troops from Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, the Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States. According to the UN, there were 167 fatalities amongst UNPROFOR personnel during the course of the force's mandate. Of those who died, three were military observers, 159 were other military personnel, one was a member of the civilian police, two were international civilian staff and two were local staff.
Major-General Lewis MacKenzie (Canada) was named chief of staff of the United Nations peacekeeping force in former Yugoslavia in February 1992. Although the purpose of the mission was to ensure a cease-fire in newly independent Croatia, the UN headquarters were located in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo. Soon after the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was created, MGen MacKenzie found himself in the midst of warring ethnic factions. In May 1992 he created Sector Sarajevo and with his UN force set about opening the Sarajevo airport for the delivery of humanitarian aid. MGen MacKenzie used the only weapon at his disposal, the media, to try to help restore peace.
After his return from the Balkans in October 1992, MGen MacKenzie was appointed commander of the army in Ontario. However, the conflict in former Yugoslavia followed him back to Canada. He was verbally attacked by members of the Croatian community in Canada and by factions in Bosnia. Although he tried to defend himself, as a member of the Canadian armed forces he was precluded from commenting on government policy. After criticizing the United Nations’ inability to command, control, and support its peacekeeping forces, MGen MacKenzie retired from the military in March 1993. That year he published an account of his career, Peacekeeper: The Road to Sarajevo, in which he recounted his harrowing experiences. In 1993 the Conference of Defence Associations Institute presented MacKenzie with its Vimy Award, and in 2006 he was awarded the Order of Canada.
SFOR was divided into three zones of operation:
Mostar MND(S) – Italian, Franco-German, Spanish; Banja Luka MND(W) – American, British, Canadian, Czech, Dutch. The British code name for their activities in IFOR was Operation RESOLUTE and SFOR was Operation LODESTAR (to June 1998) and Operation PALATINE (from Jun 1998). The Canadian mission was named Operation PALLADIUM (1996 to 2004). Tuzla MND(N) – American, Turkish, Polish, Russian, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish. (Some units had troops stationed outside the assigned zone). The three Areas of Operation (AO) were known collectively as Multi-National Divisions (MND) until the end of 2002 where they were reduced in scope to Multi-National Brigades.
Troops deployments in BiH, 1997.
SFOR operated under peace enforcement, not peacekeeping, rules of engagement. For example, it was cleared, in 1997, to neutralise Serb radio-television facilities. During its mandate, SFOR arrested 29 individuals who were charged with war crimes. Those arrested were transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Netherlands.
In February 1994, a Bosnia-Herzegovina Serb mortar attack on a Sarajevo market place killed 66 people and injured another 200. (At least that is how the incident was reported, although it is suspected that the Bosniaks fired the mortar on themselves to gain international sympathy). This act prompted NATO to threaten punitive bombing if the Serbs did not pull back from the city as directed. It is considered the day the Bosniaks “acquired an Air Force (NATO).” The Bosnia-Herzegovina Serbs then kidnapped UN Peacekeepers and used them as human shields to halt NATO air strikes. (One of these human shields was one of our Arms Verification Inspectors, Capt Pat Rechner).
In May 1995, NATO launched two days of air strikes in an effort to break a Serb blockade of Sarajevo. Bosnia-Herzegovina Serbs seized 400 UN peacekeepers and chained them to possible bombing targets to forestall further attacks. The hostages were gradually released throughout May and June. In July, the Bosnia-Herzegovina Serbs overran the UN safe areas of Srebrenica and Zepa and massacred most of the population and ethnically cleansed the rest. In August 1995, NATO resumed air-strikes in response to the shelling of Sarajevo. A ceasefire was established in October. In November, negotiators for all sides in the Bosnia-Herzegovina conflict met at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, for a three-week planning session to hammer out a workable peace plan. By December, British and American military personnel were arriving in Bosnia-Herzegovina to assist in the implementation of the agreement. Canadian Intelligence personnel were part of the Peace Implementation Force (IFOR) and its follow on, SFOR, from the beginning.
OP Alliance involved the deployment of IFOR to Bosnia-Herzegovina as authorized by SACEUR from G Day (16 Dec 95). IFOR’s forward HQ was located in Zagreb, with the ACE Reaction Corps (ARRC) HQ in the same location. The USA, the UK and France controlled three major zones. The 997-man Canadian Contingent initially came under the operational control of the Multi-National Division (MND) South West in the UK zone. Canada also provided an observer with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), who was based in Sarajevo, and one Canadian Senior Staff Officer with UNMIBH, as well as 20 Canadian Forces personnel and 100 RCMP and civilian police from 1995 to 2000.
5 Canadian Multi-National Brigade (5 CAMNB) had its HQ located in Coralici (north of the town of Bihac), while the National Support Element (NSE) was located in the town of Kljuc. One Canadian served as an UNMO in Montenegro, and another served in Macedonia.
In 1995, Croatia‘s President Tudjman allowed the UN peacekeeping mandate to lapse, and he renewed his region’s battles with the Croatian Serbs. In August, Croatian Troops regained the territory in the Krajina region that had been lost to Croatian Serbs in 1991. In 1996, Sarajevo was handed over to the Bosnia-Herzegovina-Croat Federation. Public pressure forced the withdrawal of Radovan Karadzic, although he continued to direct political and criminal activities from his residence in Pale. IFOR became SFOR (Stabilization Force) in Bosnia-Herzegovina-Herzegovina.
In 1996, within the Implementation Force (IFOR), there were approximately 52,000 Troops from NATO countries and other participating signatories. Their mandate was to enforce the military aspects of the Dayton Peace Accord. At that time, Canada had about 1,000 military personnel in Bosnia-Herzegovina. 22 were located in Sarajevo. The Canadian National Intelligence Cell (CANIC) Sarajevo was established in Dec 1995 by the the Chief Operations Officer for the CF, the Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (DCDS). The mission of the CANIC was to provide Intelligence support to NATO/IFOR through the HQ ARRC Main, the Commander Canadian Contingent in-theatre (CCIFOR), and to any national decision-making with regards to the Former Yugoslav Republic.
On 12 September 1996, I was given a short-notice warning that I would be going to Bosnia-Herzegovina within a week. On 13 September, my initial Bosnia-Herzegovina deployment was cancelled. On 14 September, it was back on. On 18 September, I visited the stores section of the Combat Training Centre (CTC) at CFB Gagetown and drew my flak vest, flak blanket and Kevlar helmet and kit for Bosnia-Herzegovina. On 19 September, I was informed “for sure,” that my deployment to Bosnia-Herzegovina was back on. I was given a number of needle injections, did a bit of the pre-deployment administration, and flew to Kingston to take the pre-deployment course. One of the people on the same course was LCol Peter Devlin, with whom I would later cross paths again when he was Brigade Commander, KMNB, ISAF in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2003-2004.
Lieutenant General Peter John Devlin, CMM, NSC, CD later served as the Commander of the Canadian Army from 2010 to 2013. He is currently the President of Fanshawe College.
The course was very well conducted, and things had gone well. On the last day of the course, I walked over to the hospital to receive the last two big haemoglobin needle shots in my butt. As I walked back into the school, the Chief Instructor handed me a FAX from the J3 Shop at NDHQ in Ottawa, informing me that the mission had been cancelled and that I could go home. LCol Devlin gave me a lift to Toronto. I flew back to Fredericton, and shortly afterwards, I was informed that I would most likely be going on a six-month deployment to the CANIC in June. I was eventually deployed
I was mugged out of the Tactics School on 19 June 1997 and on 21 June headed overseas to serve as the Commanding Officer of the Canadian National Intelligence Centre (CANIC) with the Canadian Contingent of the NATO led Peace Stabilization Force (CC SFOR) in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina from 21 June to 30 December 1997. The flights took me from Fredericton to Boston. Nice surprise to learn the pilot was Doug Kelly - we had served together on the Canadian Forces Parachute Team (CFPT) Sky Hawks, in 1978.
In the group photo, I am standing on the left with a helmet mounted camera and remote cable in hand alongside 1978 Sky Hawk team members Doug Kelly, Daniel Plourde, George Thibault, and Alain Dore kneeling. Note, experimental kit was the order of the day. I am wearing an early model tandem rig, the others are equipped with front mounted reserves, all with ripcords. We also had a mixture of canopy release systems. Doug and George are equipped with cloth tab quick-releases which we nick-named "sport death wells", while the rest of us have standard military canopy cutaway releases (Bill Booth's three-ring circus was still in the future, although we jumped together at Zephyrhills in Florida in Jan 1976).
Doug arranged for me to sit in the front cockpit with him and handed me a set of headphones. We had an excellent chat all the way to Boston. He had watched me trying to land our CF Single Otter during a “flying lesson” into Toronto also in 1978.
I photographed this de Havilland Canada CSR-123 Otter, from second Otter on our flight from Cape Breton to Halifax, Nova Scotia in Aug 1979.
It was very hot and humid in Boston. I had a six-hour delay between flights, so I took the bus and subway downtown. I took a free 1-½ hour walking tour of the “Freedom Trail.” Visited Paul Revere’s house, the church where the signal “one if by land, two if by sea” signal was shown etc. Hotter and muggy. I then took the subway to Harvard University and walked the grounds. Watched students moving out for the summer. Had an interesting chat with a family from North Dakota. Their son had just finished his freshman year. Two sisters 13 & 16 with their parents. Wedding parties and stretch limousines for photos everywhere. I then visited the Boston Science Museum. Took a trolley and subway back to the airport. Long line-ups.
21 Jun 97 2137 Jetstream 41 flight from Boston to Frankfurt. Six and a half hour flight, lots of teenagers horsing around. Sat with Fred, a Biological Analyst. Arrived at 07:10 AM at Frankfurt in heavy rain on Sunday 22 Jun. Changed some Canadian money into DM. Caught the 09:30 flight to Munich.
22 Jun 97 2138 Airbus 360-300 flight from Frankfurt to Munich. 2139 Dash-8 flight from Munich to Zagreb. Very hot and humid at Zagreb airport. Chatted with a Croatian Doctor on the flight. I presented my ID card at Pleso (Canadian administrative check-in point), then was taken to the Holiday Hotel in Zagreb, quite some distance away. Shared a room with an artillery Captain. Two of my suitcases with my uniforms in them failed to turn up. Anne at the airport advised that I would have to wait six hours to see if they were on the next flight. It was way too hot, so I conked out.
Had a wonderful dinner at the Holiday Hotel (CF provided). My roommate was Maj Richard Round. He and his wife Leslie lived in the same PMQ area 2 block with us in Germany in 1981-83. Met Tom, an Australian officer serving with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Met Orietta, a Croatian civil policeman serving as a security guard at the hotel. We had a long chat about the situation in the Balkans. He took me on a personal guided tour of his city. His wife and children lived just outside the city, although he stopped to change at the police station. The sun had just set as we went for a walk from the Mimara Museum past Tito Square, the HNK theatre, Masarykova Telina Street and north to Trg (square) Bana Jelacica with a large equestrian statue. North-east to the main cathedral in Zagreb, then up several side streets with countless outdoor cafés and on to Kravi Most (Blood Bridge). North to an old gate where votive offerings (like an outdoor church) and candles flickered about. The gate is the oldest in the original city walls.
Fantastic bronze statue of St George and the dragon nearby, with the knight sculpted in 16th-17th century detail. (New statue). North to Vlarkov Trg where a man was martyred because of his support for the peasants (a heated metal crown was jammed on his head).On south past a memorial to Nicola Tesla (a famous inventor who dealt with electricity and someone I’ve read a great deal about). We then walked over to view the city at night from a lookout site. Great evening view of the night-lights. We walked down past the Strossmaverov garden (slope) path. Lots of lovers in unlit areas, but no sense of the “criminal’ element. It is a very quiet city of one million, but it has a light and “lively” atmosphere. There are lots of young people about and an “up” feeling to the place. Stopped for ice cream etc, then back to Mimara. Orietta drove us up to see President Tudman’s home, then took me back to the Holiday Hotel. I phoned Faye and Sean, (Jonathan was out), to report on the events so far. Five hours difference in our time zones. I turned in at 12:15 PM.
Czech Mi-17 Hip helicopter, SFOR, Sarajevo.
23 Jun 97 Monday. Up early, breakfast in the hotel. Cpl Fisher (from Nova Scotia, liked country and western music) took me back to the Canadian Support Unit/administrative centre at Pleso. Jordanian guards on the gate. I drew my kevlar helmet, flak jacket, 9mm pistol and two magazines with ten rounds each and a comfortable shoulder holster. My bags still hadn’t turned up yet. ROE card. On my way back to Zagreb airport I took note of the five Russian-made Mi-24 Hind helicopters on the tarmac. While waiting for the Greek Lockheed C-130 Hercules flight into Sarajevo, I observed a Russian-made Mi-17 Hip helicopter flying in. This was the first time I had seen either of these Soviet-built helicopters after several years of teaching “Red Force” aircraft recognition to various Intelligence course students. I also took particular note of several well-marked minefields as we walked past them, sealed off with barbed wire etc. Visited the airport operations centre where I spoke with John Warren on aircraft and castles in the FYR. John is a retired USAF Colonel. Barely minutes before the flight, my bags arrived at the civilian terminal. I hastily changed into my combat uniform and was the last to board the Greek C-130 Hercules to fly to Sarajevo.
I had a long chat with Brigitte Duschene, a Canadian working for the United Nations Cooperation Framework (UNCF) Area Information Officer for the Former Yugoslav Republic (FYR) also based in Sarajevo. Brigitte is currently serving as Councillor, Public Diplomacy, High Commission of Canada in the United Kingdom. She is probably about 4’11” and wore a long scarf, so I immediately dubbed her “Scarf”. She had remained in the city throughout the shooting war, and based on her experience and observations, firmly believed the upcoming elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina would not go ahead in September 1997. Most SFOR personnel believe they will be held. I met LCol McNamara, a UK HUMINT officer and several Danes.
23 Jun 97 2140 Lockheed CC-130 Hercules flight from Zagreb to Sarajevo. We off-loaded at the damaged airport in Sarajevo and I was met by Maj Rob McCutcheon and Sgt Mike "Skippy" Wagner, from 3 Intelligence Coy in Halifax. My bags and kit were loaded onto our Mitsubishi truck and we headed off to Camp Ilidza. Although the city is surrounded by beautiful high mountains, the considerable battle damage done to the city during the war was heavily evident along the route to Ilidza. French VABs and AMX-10 RC AFVs, US HUMMVs and a variety of multi-national forces everywhere. Although Sarajevo sits at a high elevation in the mountains, the atmosphere was very humid. I toured the CANIC and met PO André Gibeault again, as well as my new 2IC, Capt Dave Owen, WO Byron MacKenzie and MCpl Ian Steel. My room still isn’t sorted out, since there is only enough space for one for one exchange of personnel, four to a room. I am temporarily bunking in different places where other officers are away or on leave. In the evening I met Capt Fikret Guzeller who works with the Turkish NIC (TUNIC). We had a very long chat about the Kurds, Bosniaks, Saladin, the Ottoman Empire and Turkey. First night in Sarajevo in the top bunk in a room in the Srbija Hotel.
The four people are in a room the same size as the one I had for myself at the Ledra Palace in Cyprus. There are 13 NICs in NIC city inside Ilidza. The Americans work out of the USNIC in a central compound with lots of security guards and MPs (50-100 people). The British work across from us in the UKNIC (11 pers), just behind the helicopter-landing pad. To our right is the Turkish NIC (with 5 or 6 pers) and then the Spanish NIC (six pers), the Swedish NIC (4 pers), the Italian NIC (up to 3 people), the Norwegian NIC (1 here and 11 in the Norwegian garrison up North), the German NIC (about 13 people), the Danish NIC (six people), the French NIC (seven people) and the Dutch NIC (with 3 pers). There is also a group with the Deployed Security Force (DSF) made up from four nations (UK, US, FR & GE). (The Swedes, Danes and Norwegians eventually combined to form a Scandinavian NIC “SCANIC” in Jan 98. The Romanians, Portuguese and Belgians also began working with us to establish NICs within our intelligence community).
Canadian National Intelligence Centre (CANIC) crew in Sarajevo, ca June 1997.
Front row kneeling: Capt David B. Owen, MCpl Ian Steel, PO André Gibeault. Rear row standing: WO R. Hal Pugh, Maj Harold A. Skaarup, Sgt Michael C. Wagner, WO Byron K. Mackenzie, Capt Al Haywood, PO1 William D. Kean. All of us were serving, with the NATO-led Peace Stabilization Force (SFOR), in 1997.
24 Jun 97 Tuesday. Early start, met MWO Penley with the Mapping Engineers here. Rob McCutcheon and I drove down to the Holiday Inn to meet with Brigitte for lunch at a fair pizza restaurant. Brigitte pointed out several battle positions and sniper sites she had noted. (Brigitte stayed downtown throughout the fighting. She spoke about a sniper deliberatley pinging bullets on the wall around her as she ran to her appartment one night). The remains of the war damage are evident everywhere, with 20 and 30 story buildings burned out or partially gutted, while some of the stages are under repair. The newspaper office seemed to be the most heavily damaged (and photographed), because it had been on the front line and took a lot of serious hits from tank rounds. Shell strikes on most of the buildings are evident everywhere. We talked about the politics of Bosnia. Brigitte has met and continues to meet with most of the key players. She is a good contact and hopefully will be here awhile. Back to Camp Ilidza, which is essentially a five-hotel complex that used to have thermal baths (badly damaged now). The Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie stayed there for the last night before their assassination in 1914.
Royal Navy Sea King helicopter, SFOR, flew in decked out with an arctic “zebra-stripe” winter camouflage pattern.
OHR/DFAIT representative Wendy Gilmore. Wendy is currently serving as Canada’s High Commissioner to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
In the evening Rob introduced me the Canadian member of the Office of the High Representative (OHR), Wendy Gilmore. Wendy works for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) in Sarajevo. The OHR is actually senior to SFOR. We had dinner in the old Turkish quarter. More interesting talk about the politics of Bosnia. Very heavy rain. Also odd walking downtown armed with a pistol, although it is normal for all military personnel here. There were lots of young people walking the pedestrian mall area, and there were many shops open at ground level. The damage however, is evident everywhere, from mortar splashes in the pavement to the burnt out wings of buildings. Some repairs are underway, but it appears to be a very slow business.
FR Aérospatiale Gazelle five-seat helicopter, commonly used for light transport, scouting and light attack duties. It is powered by a single Turbomeca Astazou turbine engine and was the first helicopter to feature a fenestron tail instead of a conventional tail rotor. SFOR, Sarajevo.
FR Aérospatiale Gazelle, SFOR, Sarajevo.
25 Jun 97 Wednesday. Met our Canadian Public Affairs Officer (PAFFO) LCdr Denise LaViolette, up from Mostar, where she works with the headquarters for the French led Multinational Division South East (MND SE). Spoke with a Spanish airborne officer and artillery Forward Observation Officer (FOO). For PT I went for a mountain-bike ride with Sgt Mike Wagner four km west along a beautiful tree-lined but paved park road approved for running etc by HQ SFOR. The park at the end of the route is being cleaned up by the locals, another positive sign. Visited the UK NIC and met with Maj Andrew Perry. Also spoke with the GCHQ LO Dewi Blythe. (Both men became two of the finest one could know in theatre). Cool. In the evening I was invited to visit the TUNIC for a cup of very sugary coffee. Spoke with Fikret and met his Air Force Sgt, Ahmet. Fikret introduced me to the full TUNIC staff including Col Celik (we would become good friends). When the Turks say goodbye to each other, the say “Kendine iyi bak,” which means “take it easy/be well.” PM in the Terme Hotel.
26 Jun 97 Thursday. Attended the daily 0800 video tele-conference (VTC) chaired by UK BGen Simon Munro (who had attended Toronto Staff College). These conferences were something that would become a regular feature of my daily routine for the next six months. The conference was primarily for the commanders of the three MNDs (N, SW & SE) with SFOR in Bosnia. This was followed by several briefings covering the American led Train and Equip (T & E) program (which a lot of SFOR participants had some serious heartache with), also in the Srbija Hotel. Met US LCol Washington (J3 Coord) at 1100. 1400 meeting with the CANUKUS Intelligence Community at the UK NIC. (These became the single most interesting and valuable meetings of the week). Met Maj Julian Moir, who was wearing a uniform he picked up in Cambodia and a black patch over one eye (due to an injury he received from accidentally striking unexploded ordnance (UXO) during a training exercise in Suffield, Alberta). Maj Andrew Perry, CO UKNIC, and Maj Rick Gallegos, DCO USNIC. LCol Bob Parsons (who worked for CJ2 and has been designated the new Canadian Army G2) and a crew of 20 Int people from all three countries sat in on the verbal free-for-all. Excellent and productive round-table discussions on every subject of intelligence interest concerning Bosnia. Best meeting so far. Had lunch with Swedish Navy Captain Glad. Long history chat. Met Maj Cashino with the ITNIC. At 1600 hours Rob and I were driven downtown by Sgt Wagner to the Canadian Embassy, where we met and spoke with Kati Csaba Deputy to the Ambassador.
(Government of Canada Photo)
Kati Csaba (BA [Political Studies and Russian] Queen’s University, 1988; MA [Central/East European and Russian-Area Studies] Carleton University, 1993) began her career at External Affairs and International Trade Canada in 1993, working on Canada’s assistance program to Hungary.
In the following years, Kati occupied several programming and analytical roles covering Central and Eastern Europe, including four Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) postings in the region: as second secretary in Kyiv (1995 to 1997), as head of aid in Sarajevo (1997 to 1999), as head of aid in Moscow (2005 to 2009) and as development director in Kyiv (2009 to 2012). In 2013, she was a member of the transition team responsible for the amalgamation of the then Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada and the then CIDA, following which she served as the director of amalgamation implementation in Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada’s Sub-Saharan Africa Branch (2014 to 2015).
Most recently, she was the senior director responsible for Canada’s development program with Ethiopia, based at the Embassy of Canada in Addis Ababa. Kati is currently Canada's Ambassador to Serbia, Montenegro and North Macedonia. She is married and has two teenage children. Kati had been in Kiev the Ukraine prior to being posted to Sarajevo, and spoke some Russian as well. She introduced us to Ambassador Serge Marcoux.
We had a long chat on the history of the Balkans and on possible future developments in the area. Back to the CANIC for an evening farewell BBQ party at the UKNIC for all the departing NIC crews rotating out. Steak, turkey and Swedish smoked salmon, Irish Cream. Lots of guests and visitors. Capt Eric Gjos, the Int officer in Coralici dropped in to visit with his crew. PM in the Terme. I signed off the Board of Inquiry for our CO’s handover. Called Faye and the boys as well as Mom and Dad. All well, Jonathan was still job hunting.
27 Jun 97 Friday. Video teleconference (VTC) at 0800. Signed the CANIC Change-of-Command certificates for the handover. More indoctrination. 1030 hours, Capt Eric Gjos gave an Int briefing to the collected SFOR staffs. His presentation went over very well and he made us look good. More Int meetings, briefs on security etc. Met the senior Canadian in Sarajevo, BGen Ford. BGen Munro singled me out for a hello during his evening VTC. In the evening the Swedish, Canadian and German NICs had a mug-out and sing/eat fest. Met the new Swedish CO, LCol Kjell (pronounced shell) Eriksson. We would become good friends.
Met Deborah Alexander, a US representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Deborah had worked with Mother Theresa and was here for voter registration. BGen Munro is on the “No vote likely to take place” side, although the Americans are adamant that the elections will take place. Spoke with Jeanett, a member of the Swedish contingent (non-NATO unit). There are 38 countries participating in SFOR, even though only 16 are in NATO. Switzerland has also contributed a unit (# 39) but it works alongside SFOR and enjoys its “protection.”
28 Jun 97 Saturday. 0600 start of a road move to Split and Zagreb. Brought my helmet, flak jacket, pistol, kit bag and lots of water. Sgt Wagner drove Rob and I in the Mitsubishi over to the site of the former Olympic ice-skating stadium at Zetra to pick up LCol Parsons. This is the same Olympic stadium where Canada’s Gaetan Boucher won two gold medals in 1984. The stadium looks like it is nearly ready to collapse, although it was probably a lot like the Aitken Centre in Fredericton before it was shelled. It will likely have to be torn down and rebuilt because of the amount of damage it has sustained. The US Embassy, which is nearby, is very heavily sandbagged and protected with armoured Bradley AFVs. We drove out of the city at a hair-raising pace on what turned out to be a very hot day. Passed by German Luchs and French VAB AFVs everywhere. (Earlier, one of the Luchs crews had accidentally electrically discharged five 20-mm rounds from the Rarden cannon mounted on his Luchs into the vehicle ahead, killing two of his German colleagues).
We drove southwest, passing an old Roman bridge just outside the Ilidza defensive compound. It is not far from one of the 25 lodges (this one has been destroyed) that Tito used to maintain near our bike trail. The scenery is fantastic with beautiful tree-lined valleys, but damaged ethnically cleansed (EC) homes in evidence everywhere. It reminded me much like the region around Carcassonne in the south of France. Near Pazaroc we drove by a huge railway viaduct bridge. On to Rastelica and then to the garrison town of Bradina with two Sherman style tanks, some homemade APCs and several tubes of artillery (105mm and 120mm) out front. On to Ovcar and Konjic. We passed by a suspension bridge at Butorvic Polje and drove through seven medium (160m) to long (700m) tunnels. At Jablanica we drove by a Ukrainian unit equipped with BTR-70s, guarding a bailey type bridge. Signs indicated that the French Foreign Legion (FFL) built the bridge. The Ukrainians were airborne forces personnel. We had a long wait at Proznica for bridge repairs. Caught in the middle of a long convoy of Austrian transport troops.
We drove through some areas that had suffered major battle damage near Potruci and on to Mostar. Very heavily damaged, although perhaps not as much as downtown Sarajevo at first glance. The beautiful old Stari Most bridge the city of Mostar is famous for (Most means bridge), formerly spanned the Neretva (Ar) River. The Mostar Bridge was built in 1566 by the Turks, but was destroyed by a Croat tank on 9 Nov 1993. It took more than 60 shells to bring it down. There is a rough suspension bridge hanging in its place, and Spanish SFOR engineers have constructed other bridges over the river to restore the flow of traffic. (The rebuilt bridge opened on 23 July 2004). The countryside is surrounded by high barren and rocky mountains. There is considerably less vegetation than that found around Sarajevo and the countryside is definitely Mediterranean in nature (and much hotter).
The Stari Most Bridge in Mostar after restoration.
We crossed through the Bosnian-Croatian border checkpoint about 1115 hours. We were waved through without any formality due to the SFOR sign on our truck. We had to remove and stow our pistols as we are out of our jurisdiction in Croatia. We drove by an old (pre-18th c?) round stone watchtower about four stories in height, now in ruins with vines growing on it. The tower is on the flats at the end of the Neretva River. It appeared to have gun-ports and was situated just south of the border crossing. The flat plains ran into medium (i.e. New Brunswick sized) mountains, and to very high mountains much like those on the north coast of Cyprus. Very, very, hot. We got down along the coast to the Adriatic Sea, which was a beautiful aquamarine blue-green.
UN Mi-17 Hip helicopter.
We drove north along the coast to the touristic city of Split (very large). Up and down mountain roads through bare and ragged looking white rock which rose several thousand feet up from the coast. We dropped off LCol Parsons at Trogir airport. Lots of Blackhawk and Hip helicopters on the tarmac. Lunch in Trogir, an old Roman city, 27 DM. We then took the coastal route to Sibenik, passing a star-fortress on the left hand side. It grew even hotter. Several radars and an old round tower (possibly Second World War era) and forts high in the hills. Lots of shipping and ship construction at Sibenik. We then turned inland to Benkovac, passed lots of wrecked and unoccupied homes, all electricity down. There were villages with 20 homes where they had blown up seven or eight of their ethnically incorrect neighbours (EC).
Overland to Obrovac, where there were entire villages with 50 to 60 homes abandoned or looted, all now ghost towns. Lots of them...far too many of them...and always more of them. We came upon a beautiful lake at Novigradska More. Drove down a steep valley passing a strategically sited medieval castle ruin, with a long wall running down to the river. We crossed the river and then followed seemingly endless hairpin switchbacks way up (5,000’?) over the mountains. There were several walled “corrals” of green trees and vegetation in the sea of large areas of barren rock. They stood out like a green oasis in a grey sea of rocky ground. More villages entirely abandoned, many more. Farms not tended, no signs of livestock for long distances. In over 100 kms there were only a few goats seen along the way. We paused to view a very long trail of pipes leading to an electric power station. They were water tubes running several thousand feet up the side of the mountain. Took some video pictures.
Down the other side of the mountain to Gracac. More damaged homes, although some seemed to be occupied. Half the village of Gracac seemed to be abandoned, the other half seemed to be functioning. There was a long dike protecting some of the farmland, but none of the farms appeared to be well tended, if they were indeed being attended at all. We continued en route north through Bruvno, passing a series of “hoodoos” in the Croatian variation of Drumheller. Fine fields but still no livestock seen. The village of Ubine seemed to be half-occupied. Korenica was damaged, although there was a very fine sculptured memorial in front of an official centre of some kind. Good view of the nearby very high mountains (12,000’+) with HF/VHF radio towers etc. At Prijeboj we turned east and zigzagged up the mountains to Bihac.
We crossed the border at Petrovno-Selo. There was an instant change to well cultivated thoroughly well cared for farms and fields bursting with ripe crops. It reminded me of southern Germany in prime harvest season. There were new mosques and minarets everywhere. Every field seemed to be well tended, groomed, hay mows stacked by hand, corn, wheat, wall-to-wall crops, green, green, green. A very middle European look to the place. We had to put our weapons back on however. Odd Muslim gravestones everywhere. There was a very large group of twelve stones (four or five times larger than grave markers) grouped on a small mound in a peculiar pattern just on the southern edge of the town of Bihac (war memorial). Bihac is a very prosperous (and modern) looking town somewhat like Lahr. The northern end of the city had suffered some battle damage however. The town is taking care of itself and there was a lot of reconstruction evident on mosques and minarets with shiny new copper roofing.
On the way up the hill towards Cazin we passed a local police checkpoint (likely unauthorized), and a man roasting what must have been a goat (we first thought it was a dog) on a spit. Above Cazin we came upon a very well restored late medieval castle with three turrets and a long stone curtain wall. Its wooden roof had been restored, and the castle was strategically placed to overlook the valley. Beautiful green lush drive overland towards Coralici.
Maj Rob McCutcheon at the entrance to VK.
Arrived at the Headquarters for the Canadian Contingent SFOR, a logistics camp at Velika Kladusa (VK), about 8 PM after covering 600 km of some very rough terrain. There were two Czech Mi-17 Hip helicopters in grey and white tiger stripe camouflage parked in the centre of the camp. Met Col Selbie and his staff and then toured the excellent facilities they have set up in an old farm implement factory. Used their Internet to send an e-mail message home to Faye and the boys. Read two-week-old Canadian newspapers. Col Selbie gave Rob and I CO’s rooms (a single COREMEC trailer to ourselves). Slept like a king.
29 Jun 97 Sunday. Up late for brunch. Spent an hour inside one of the Mi-17 Hips talking with the three-man crew of the Czech helicopter. Three and a half hour staff meeting. Col Selbie presided over Rob’s and my Change of Command of the CANIC. After supper it grew very hot and muggy.
Rob and I walked about 9 km (4.5 km each way) to an old castle with three towers including a very high one in stone with a restored wooden roof. We stopped to chat with a German speaking Bosnian family on the way back. They are afraid of what will happen when we leave.
Velika Kladuša was first mentioned by name as "Cladosa" on 30 Oct 1280 (the date is part of its shield). During the era of the Byzantine Empire the population of the town slowly grew. Towards the end of the 13th century up to 1464, Velika Kladuša was controlled by two different Hungarian kings. Around 1464 the Ottoman Empire expanded towards this region. It was raided in 1558, and captured in 1633 by Ottomans. Velika Kladuša would later become the center of Ottoman expansion into neighboring Croatia as well as the rest of Europe. At the beginning of the occupation of Boznia and Herzegovina by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1878, Velika Kladuša along with other allies in the region, put up the biggest resistance. Nevertheless, it developed with the opening of schools, the introduction of land register books, and a mosque and a catholic church were built.
During the Second World War, the region of Velika Kladuša fought on the side of the Yugoslav Partisans. At one point the town switched alliances and allowed the Nazis to occupy it but this was part of a deception plan in concert with the Partisans, who then then surprised the Nazis by jointly attacking them. The people in this region were always strong supporters of Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito and communism. One café in Velika Kladuša was named "Tito" in his honour.
In May 1950, Velika Kladuša was the scene of a major peasant revolt when the Cazin uprising, an armed anti-state rebellion, occurred. The event most affected neighboring Cazin, as well as Slunj, which were all part of Communist Yugoslavia at the time. The peasants revolted against the forced collectivization and collective farms by the Yugoslav government on the farmers of its country. Following a drought in 1949, the peasants of Yugoslavia were unable to meet unrealistic quotas set by their government and were punished. The revolt that followed the drought resulted in the killings and persecution of those who organized the uprising, but also many innocent civilians. It was the only peasant rebellion in the history of Cold War Europe.
During our visit at VK I spoke with one of the gate guards, Cpl Kelly, a reservist from Alberta working the gate. She has a teaching degree from the University of Calgary, but chose to have an adventure and was serving on a callout in Bosnia - good for her. Evening in the mess, still very warm.
30 Jun 97 Monday. Early morning start with the sun up. The Czechs lifted off in one of the Hips. We proceeded north to the Croatian border. Lots of burned out houses and ghost towns for a dozen km. Crossed through a police checkpoint (TU Capt Fikret Abdic’s crew covered the ground in between) and drove into no man’s land. The farms here appeared to be abandoned and were growing over and uncared for. I could see some old 17th-18th C ruins near Kolaric. Burned out bus on the roadside, defaced war memorials, what a waste ...for the hundredth time. Green valleys. As we approached Zagreb, everything changed dramatically. We were back in the Europe of tourists. We checked into the Holiday Hotel and had supper. I headed on downtown in civvies. I took a bus to the Croatian Army Base/SFOR installation in downtown Zagreb and then took a streetcar to the centre of the city. Had a chance to see the people, visit the cafes and bookstores etc. Lots of young people outdoors. I planned to walk back to the Hotel (5 km?), but two Canadian Medical Capts gave me a lift back. Met RCMP Constable Chuck Duncan, in the hotel, he’s based in Brcko. Chuck, Mike and I headed back downtown again. I retraced the path that Orietta had shown me for Chuck and Mike. We walked uphill to the Nicola Tesla memorial, then over to the St George and the Dragon statue. Stopped for Cappuccinos and Italian ice cream in the main square. Took the Toyota back to the Holiday Hotel. Long discussion on the situation here. Must arrange to have regular meetings for all Canadians serving in Bosnia, not just the military ones.
01 Jul 97 Tuesday. Canada Day, early start. We left the Holiday Hotel and headed west on Highway E-70 Lipovak signs until we hit the Zagreb-Sisak Aerodrom and the Canadian Support Unit in Pleso. On the “autobahn” to Karlovac, passing a castle overlooking the Kupa River. Drove a long a very winding road along a green river valley. Lots of zigzagging through the towns of Potok, Tounj, Josipdol and passing a lot of well-groomed farms. Josipdol was the first town we hit with war damage that appeared to have an equal amount of ethnic cleansing (EC). Seven homes destroyed, 25 still occupied. Castle on a hill south of the town, possibly an old ruin from the 14th-15th C. The road wound uphill through some logging operations more than 2,000 m up the mountain. Saw what appear to be old Roman era stone walls on the mountain top at Kapela, plus several old stone towers, stone bridges and buildings at Jezerane. Viewed a high, towered older building at Brinje. One of the buildings had been cleansed. Old ruins plus one large building cleansed at Zuta Lovka. West to Senj on the coast over a very winding road through the mountains.
We topped over the crest at Vratnik and got a good view of the Adriatic. Its large bare white rock islands leaped into view. Rocky mountain descent to the coast. Passed by a square shaped stone castle overlooking Senj. There was a small old stonewalled town in Karlobag. Bare desert-like islands glared at us in the bright Adriatic sunshine along the coastal route. We passed by an empty naval base and s base with a destroyed Blue and White marked Hip helicopter on the inland side. Lots of wrecked buildings just 2 km north of Krisac.
Stopped for a “mixed grill” lunch at Tribanj, right on the water. Found several homes that had been cleansed (dynamited) on the shore north and south of Paklenca. 8 or 9 homes destroyed in Murvika, then a whole series of groups of homes and buildings demolished beyond salvage, everything flattened. As we drove in Zadar, we passed by countless numbers of more wrecked homes. Many more had suffered light damage from shell fragments but new construction and repairs seemed to be underway. The shell fragments seemed to do less damage than the EC. Lights were blown out, some buildings burned out on the north edge of town. In several cases, huge amounts of explosives must have been required to flatten the large numbers of stone and concrete buildings in this area.
Driving south towards Sibenik we passed a large Marina at Sukosan. A few buildings had artillery shell holes, but no demolition had taken place to finish them off. In Vodice there was a large observation post with flags flying and scaffolding to shore up its reconstruction on a hill on the north end of the town. No damage in Sibenik evident. Large communications towers on the hill above the town. Miles and miles of old stone walls (farming?). Some appeared to lead to the kind of beehive huts that have been dated back 3000 years in Cyprus. Very pretty along the coast at Dolac. Good view of an old castle and town walls at the very old Roman port in Trogir. Passed by a half-finished merchant ship under construction. Pulled into Split airport at 1700 hours, but LCol Parsons had departed two hours earlier. He had gotten a lift with British troops. We stopped in at the DJ Barracks (UK shared it with the Croats) and the RAF gate guard let us use his INMARSAT telephone to call the CANIC and tell them we would be arriving late. We then drove past a large citadel high on a hill 15 km east of Split. Several large tanker/transport ships stood in unfinished construction on their slips. No sign of the Croat navy. Lots of large high-rise apartments. Solitary Catholic Church overlooking the Adriatic, small fort and ruins. Beautiful sunny evening on the seacoast at Igranc. Noticed the car ferry at Drevnik.
NO Sisu AFV, guarding the entrance to Ilidza, Sarajevo.
We stopped for supper at Villa Neretva for really good German food. It was dusk as we reached the border. We made it back up the Neretva River valley and back into Ilidza just past the 11 PM curfew. The Norwegian guard gave a little bit of “stick,” but eased up when he recognised Sgt Wagner. (Skippy must be the best-known Canadian in Bosnia, because he said hi and spoke to everybody). Couldn’t get into my new room. It was late and the locks were jammed, didn’t want to wake everyone up. The receptionist, Abraham let me into a partially damaged room with a still functioning bathroom. I had my army blanket and kit, and actually slept pretty well on the floor. Abraham became a friend. Turns out he had been a machine-gunner defending the city during the war.
The first page of the edition of the Domenica del Corriere, an Italian paper dated 12 July 1914, with a drawing of Achille Beltrame depicting Gavrilo Princip killing Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914.
02 Jul 97 Wednesday. Meetings. Biked out to the park with MCpl Ian Steel. In the evening Sgt Wagner and I met with Brigitte downtown. I took lots of notes on the Bosnian leadership changes and their possible successors. We had coffee in the Boheme, a local crime boss’s cafe. We never seemed to meet unless there was a band or a racket going on in the background because she didn’t want to be overheard discussing the information. The damage to the city and the resulting power outages are really evident in the city at night.
We had driven by the site where Gavrilo Prinzip shot the Archduke on 28 June 1914. His footprints and the plaque marking the site were eradicated later (he had been a Serb, and the Muslims were decidedly unhappy with the treatment and shelling meted out to them during the war). Back in Ilidza before 11 PM curfew. Had a long and interesting chat with one of my new roommates, Irish Contingent Commander LCol Mark O’Brien.
03 Jul 97 Thursday. CANUKUS “Three-eyes” meeting was interesting. Beautiful morning. I finally got some useful data to send off to the Yugoslavian Crisis Cell (YCC), later renamed the Bosnian Intelligence Cell (BIRT), in Ottawa. Met the CO of the GENIC and the new USNIC CO Cdr Larry Ash during the USNIC change of command ceremony. Also spoke with the Hellenic NIC (Greek) and FRNIC COs. Met LCol Møller-Peterson, the Danish Ops O and members of the ITNIC and SPNIC. Visited the Swedish NIC (SWENIC) and had a “two-eyes” meeting with his staff. Vegetated in the evening.
04 Jul 97 Friday. US birthday bash. Brigadier Munro pulled the US chain at the 0800 OGp/VTC in the Srbija. The hotel is partially damaged and repairs are continuing. It is where I take most of my meals. The Archduke spent his last night here in 1914. Sgt Wagner and MCpl Steel took me up over the mountains south of the airport into the Republika Srpska (RS) side of Sarajevo. We checked out the view from Tito’s Second World War memorial and then further up the mountain to the main gun positions the Serbs used to fire on the city centre. All the Olympic buildings up there have been systematically destroyed. There were .50 ca links everywhere. The bobsled run had been thoroughly wrecked and there were several sleds in row that had been torched and burnt to hulks. What a waste.
There is a crashed Ukrainian IL-76 Candid slumped on the end of the runway at the airport.
The apartment blocks across from the airport probably suffered the most damage of any residential area in the city. The shell holes through the apartment blocks go on for kilometres. On the other side of the mountain there is no sign of battle damage. It is all farmland owned by the Serbs. While Ian drove, Mike did some videotaping along the route we covered. +35°, humid and hot. The US put on some entertainment in the main hotel square at Ilidza in the evening. Had a long telephone chat with Faye and the boys. George has just been diagnosed with colon cancer. Learned some more of the Irish language from LCol Mark O’Brien. Hello is “Deah Gowit” (God be with you), and the reply is “Deis Muragowit” (God and Mary be with you). He would say “Marden bra” in the morning and I would say “go rev mahagowit” (thank you). The big one was “Go murra meed beyo egon own shaw ahreesh...” (May we be alive again this time next year...but not in Sarajevo).
05 Jul 97 Saturday. Three land mines detonated during the day between 6 and 6:30 PM. We are not in Kansas Toto.
06 Jul 97 Sunday. Another land mine went off. 0900 Sunday service presided over by an American Protestant Chaplain (Col in the USAF). Long chat with GCHQ rep Dewi Blythe in the morning. UK BBQ in the evening.
07 Jul 97 Monday. Over to the airfield with Mike to explore the crashed IL-76 being guarded by the French contingent. Sat in the cockpit of a wrecked MiG-21 Fishbed fighter (Serial No. 531). It was a lot smaller than I had thought. Examined a pair of wrecked UN BTR-70s and several other vehicles destroyed there, as well as a wrecked G-2 Galeb jet trainer and a Soko P-2 Kraguj light observation plane.
Took photos of the wrecked newspaper building, with our Mitsubishi in front, then back to camp.
08 Jul 97 Tuesday. At 0800 we headed off north to Doboj intending to loop over to visit the US camp at Tuzla in heavy rain. Took the SFOR route via Finch, Dove, Skoda and Lada 79 km to Zenica. Very heavy damage to the factories, train stations, etc. Dozens of shattered villages north of Sarajevo. Beautiful river, steep hillsides, heavily wooded valley walls, roads fair. Every village had its share of ethnically cleansed homes, most of which appear to have been destroyed by their own neighbours. The large autobahn bridge at Visoko was blown up during the Canadian occupation of the town in 93. There is a bailey bridge over the river and a large detour around it, but the road is good beyond it (highway travel). Some of the large factories we saw are undergoing major repairs.
A German Luchs armoured vehicle guarded the bridge-crossing site. There were several old Second World War era defence towers or pillboxes guarding the route near Visoko. Although Canada had occupied the town during the war, there are no Canadians based there now. The bulk of the 1,300 Canadian forces in Bosnia are located in Coralici and Velika Kladusa, with about 50 personnel in the Sarajevo area, including the six in the CANIC. A man walking his cow or goat is a very common site here.
There are so many uncharted minefields that livestock must be herded carefully to keep it from being blown to pieces. In the Bosniak Muslim areas, the Serbs Orthodox Christians have mostly been cleansed, although some of the victims may have been Catholic Croats. Serb homes have a single two sided peak on them, Bosniak homes have four-sided square roofs, and Croat homes have a small gable on each end of a peaked roof, much like Black Forest homes. The valley roads are very winding, and the rain never let up. We passed by a large coal-fuelled electrical plant with very tall smoke stacks near Kakanj. Extensive rail and (open pit?) coal facilities. Bosna River ran alongside it. Lots of Muslim minarets and mosques, and much less damage evident along this river. The Serb Orthodox churches were also in large numbers, although one very large one had been gutted and burned. More ethnic cleansing. Hay is cut by hand with a sickly and stacked with a pitchfork by all Bosnians. Some have clumps of branches on them to keep them from blowing away, leaving the effect of a golf tee appearance to them.
We drove by a large circular column of stone with an obelisk mounted on top. The marker was sitting on a rocky island in the middle of the Bosna River at the crossroads near Lasava. It appears to be a very old marker. There were campgrounds along the river and high rock and tree covered valley walls rising steeply on both sides. The river drops quite a bit and there are waterfalls here and there. Zenica is a fairly large city. There were a lot of high-rise apartments but not much damage visible on the outskirts. Where there was no damage, there is some dilapidation. There were a few very large factories (one is a Renault car plant) on the north side of town. Lots of Turkish equipment here. Large numbers of SFOR helicopters under canvas. Passed by a Bosniak Muslim refugee camp, well occupied and lots of laundry out. Saw a medieval castle overlooking the river near Gracanica, followed by two very long tunnels with no lights inside. There were “no cameras permitted” signs for a km or so as we passed by a “model base” constructed by the Federation’s Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina (ARBiH). The buildings all had a fresh coat of paint, and the camp mosque had a new minaret. It was a company-sized outpost near Vranduk, 18 km north of Zenica.
Further north (15 km) at Zepce, we passed by a Russian-made snow-cat type of vehicle, armoured and painted in blue police markings, but clearly rusted and unserviceable. The large town of Zavodovici had a much greener and healthier looking landscape compared to Sarajevo. The third long tunnel we passed through actually had a few lights working. Three rows of them were “on.” A Czech SFOR Mi-17 Hip flew low through the wet weather over the river valley. Lots of damage in the Croatian pocket at Maglaj. Heavy ethnic cleansing and shellfire damage on the south edge of the city as well. We passed through one short and then one very long unlit and S-shaped tunnel. SFOR forces were escorting ARBiH troops through the area. More signs of ethnic cleansing. There was a large resort style hotel completely burned out on the north side of town. Dutch troops were checking out an ARBiH truck near Trgvina. There is a large quarry operation near Tsanjika. Just south of Doboj we came upon two destroyed T-55 tanks and a wrecked BVP M-60 APC.
The Danes and the Dutch manned the checkpoint at the Bailey bridge in a heavily defended SFOR position on the internal unofficial border between the Federation and the RS. Lots of shell damage at Rasadnik. Passed a Danish FOR Camp just south of Doboj and one run by Finland. Quite a few 15-20 story high-rises in Doboj as well as old Second World War blockhouses. The wrecked tanks and APCs are technically in no-man’s land, between the two factions.
Passed by a number of Orthodox churches in Doboj. Pretty area, with an old stone fortress on a low hill to the west of the city flying a very large RS flag. The scenes of damage gradually disappeared as we crossed the river and headed east to Tuzla on a yellow SFOR route. The police cars are painted blue and white here as compared to the green and white ones on the Federation side. Some of the police cars on the Bosniak side also use Black and White markings. Heavy damage one km east of Doboj. Narrow valley roads and a tunnel, followed by major ethnic cleansing in the Stanic Rijecka area. More open country, some buildings being repaired and moved into (plastic in the windows). Blown bridges on the side routes.
Kiokotnitca is a well cared for in its farms and town. Lots of new construction. Saw a really tall minaret west of the town. Another bridge to the side is blown down however. A few homes have been cleansed here as well. New “Big SAX” gas station and corner store was just opened at Gracanica. Wrecked or cleansed Motel, KOPEX gas store (new) at Pribava. Light shell damage, and homes patched up everywhere with fresh cement at Orahovica. Very lush and green lowlands, slight hills around Miricina, tall minarets. New buildings and fresh paint, then a burned out bus on the roadside near Gnojnica. SFOR Blackhawk helicopter hovering overhead. HUMMV convoy passed by. Double Bailey bridge over the damaged bridge here. More damaged buildings. Big open pit mine in operation and a large power plant. There were lots of US low-rider heavy hauling transport vehicles parked in the complex. Long overhead pipes stretched for several km to another big plant or factory. There were overhead cable cars (for coal?) in this facility about 14 km west of Tuzla.
In Tuzla there is a huge five-towered power plant (looks like the Three Mile Island nuclear plant). Several Blackhawks on a US airfield nearby. These towers are huge geodesic patterned “cooling towers,” and sit just near the Lipnica turnoff. It is a chemical plant. We pulled into the UN International Police Task Force (IPTF) HQ to meet RCMP Inspector Chris Bothe. He supervises 500 monitors in the Tuzla area, plus anther 259 in Brcko. His IPTF officers are from 28 different countries (although few of them are in SFOR). We had a good chat and he introduced me to his Russian deputies and some members of the force from Nepal. Chris gave us directions to the US Task Force Eagle base, via a back route over 15 km of twisting roads. We visited the US camp on an old RS airfield complex.
Went to the US PX and had Burritos, Pizza and ice cream, although it never did stop raining. Ran into Russians, Swedes, Turks, Norwegians, Brits and American troops everywhere. Bradleys, HUMMVs, VABs and heavy movers in the parking lots etc. Out the east gate and onto Ostrich route heading west to Zivinice. Very narrow and extremely winding route back, with major parts of it under construction. Very narrow valley with steep sides and the road cut into the mountain walls and hard rock above the river. Passed by a few cleansed restaurants and homes high in the mountains. Had the peculiar sensation of driving downhill while the river flowed the other way due to dams and steps in the flow of the water. Lots of side waterfalls and deep drain holes on the side of the road due to the rain. South of Zukici the countryside began to look much like Lahr. The route wound way up the mountainside parallel with the river. Still raining.
We went over the mountains and down the other side and then up another mountain. Lots of switchbacks. There are new homes going up here and there, and many more under reconstruction en route to Kladanj, a lumber mill town. Slight evidence of shell fragments on buildings here, nothing major. Back up more winding routes past a series of conical shaped mountains. Dark grey rocks and tress along the very narrow roads. Up past some seriously damaged buildings. Everything demolished in small communities of a dozen or so homes. Single dwellings and restaurants every few km on the winding roads, all destroyed. The letters SDA were spray painted on many of the wrecked buildings. I would guess that 50% of the buildings we saw had been destroyed as we neared the Stupcanica lumberyard. The factories and apartments in Olivo sustained heavier damage. Very high winding road above the town. Minaret above the town of Olivo and an Orthodox church just above it.
Signs everywhere indicating that Brcko is “the key.” It is a town on the Sava River of importance to all factions, and the most contested site in Bosnia at present. Whoever gets control of it has serious economic power, and all three sides want it, hence the continuing tension up there. Large but totally devastated farms on the northern edge of Ivanica. GDS and SDA signs have been spray painted on the wrecked buildings. We crossed over a Bailey bridge dubbed “Edith Bridge” just before driving into Srednije. Very steep mountain roads to Semizovac. Egyptian APCs and troops guarded a railway station checkpoint. Wrecked buildings all the way down to Sarajevo. We passed by an odd star shaped marker commemorating the 84 Olympics, on a small hill just above the railway station. Passed an old VW plant and heavy factory damage. Into Sarajevo passing by the wrecked Olympic area at Zetra and the US “Residency” compound. Fine old mosques downtown. Still raining. Back to Ilidza via downtown, more rain, into camp at 1825 hours.
SWENIC and CANIC crews, Sarajevo, July 1997. CA Capt Dave Owens, SW translator, SW Capt Haakon Schuessler, SW LCol Kjell (Shell) Ericsson, SW Sgt 1st Class Karen Berlin, CA Capt Allan Haywood, CA Maj Hal Skaarup, CA WO Byron K. Mackenzie.
09 Jul 97 Wednesday. In the evening the CANIC crew hosted the SWENIC crew to a Canadian BBQ dinner. LCol Kjell (Shell) Ericsson, Maj Conny Lundevall, Capt Haakon (Hokan) Schuessler, Sgt Karin Berlin and our six CANIC pers. We had a really good feed and chat. LCol Kjell brought a bottle of 20.5% proof Swedish “Flagg” liqueur (it never froze).
Boeing CH-47 Chinook twin-engined, tandem rotor, heavy-lift helicopter developed by American rotorcraft company Vertol and manufactured by Boeing Vertol. The CH-47 is among the heaviest lifting Western helicopters. Its name, Chinook, is from the Native American Chinook people of Washington state.
Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion heavy-lift transport helicopter, Sarajevo.
Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion heavy-lift transport helicopter, Sarajevo.
10 Jul 97 Thursday. The 0800 morning video teleconference was very calm. At 0900 hours we had our three-eyes meeting in the UKNIC. During the discussions, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter lifted off from the helipad beside us, then a CH-53 Super Stallion lifted off behind it. These are all heavy lift helicopters, and very unusual to be here at the same time. Something is in the wind. LCdr Ash, the USNIC CO was pulled from the meeting. Shortly afterwards, Capt Eric Gjos called from the Canadian Battle Group in Coralici to give us a “heads up,” something is in the wind. Interesting so far...
About 0900 hours the SAS/SFOR moved to arrest Simo Drljaca, as Bosnian Serb Person Indicted for War Crimes (PIFWC) and former police chief of Prijedor in the RS. He pulled out a pistol and shot one of the British soldiers in the leg during the arrest. They promptly ventilated him with about five rounds, killing him on the spot. At the same time, another PIFWC, hospital director Milan Kovacevic as well as Drljaca’s brother in law and Drljaca’s son, were also seized and taken to the Hague for trial. Lots of intelligence activity. (Drljaca’s son and brother-in-law were released the next day). I visited the Canadian Embassy to meet with Kati Csaba and Guy Archambault for an interesting discussion.
The senior OHR representative Mr Carlos Westendorp arrived just as I exited the Srbija/SFOR HQ. Lots of plain-clothes security personnel wearing earphones and carrying heavy weapons everywhere. We had the largest turnout of interested participants I’d seen to date at the 17:30 hrs Joint Operations Centre (JOC) conference. The mood in the UK/US community was very upbeat (unlike the 36 other nations in SFOR that felt they had been left out of the loop).
US Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion heavy-lift transport helicopter, and UK Westland Lynx multi-purpose twin-engined military helicopter, SFOR, Sarajevo.
About this time I was called in to the senior Int Office and given a tasking - "take this package and brief a team on a specific mission - you won't know them, they won't know you, but make sure they get the details of the task. Be at the briefing location at o'dark x hours, and keep out of sight." I arrived late at night at the designated location and hovered around a small shed as out of the shadows a couple of soldiers made their way to the same location. One of them leaned in, and as he did, he said,.."are you...Hal, what the hell are you doing here?" I said, "Hi Mike, um, I'm meeting some people who have a job to do for my boss." Moment of silence. Mike and I had served as Captains with 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group in Germany. "I guess that would be us", and we proceeded with the briefing. The team proceeded to carry out a successful operation.
These days, I see he is now Lieutenant-General Michael Norman Rouleau, the current Commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command.
11 Jul 97 Friday. Lots of inter-NIC discussion. We visited the Norwegian PX. Turks in the same location with their BTR-80s guarding the checkpoint. Had a CANUKUS VTC between the DIA, the YCC, the UK and us. Farewell get-together with the OHR staff and Wendy Gilmore. Curfew. Dropped Capt Lemire at the Residence. My turn for night duty officer in the CANIC.
12 Jul 97 Saturday. All NICs meeting, lots of questions around the table. At the evening JOC briefing we were informed that all flights are cancelled. Rough night for the US staffs. Duty officer again (we do three consecutive nights each).
13 Jul 97 Sunday. Over to visit the CO of the FRNIC, LCol Lavelaine. In the evening there was a pre-Bastille Day celebration with the French forces.
Met Ms Mette Nielsen, the Danish NATO political advisor to Gen Crouch, the Commander of SFOR. Mette was accorded the equivalent rank of a two-star general in Denmark, and is very bright. She is currently serving as Her Excellency Mette Kjuel Nielsen, Ambassador of Denmark to Serbia.
The CANIC and the SWENIC played hockey ball in the Terme parking lot in the afternoon.
14 Jul 97 Monday. Swedish-Canadian volleyball match at 0900, great fun. We eventually made it international with two rules. 1. If two or more people are from the same country, they must be on opposite sides of the net; and 2. No one is permitted to keep score. We would wind up with the most popular court in Ilidza, with absolute beginners and world-class spikers equally divided and having an equal amount of fun.
16 Jul 97 Wednesday. Meeting with Brigitte, Dave Owens and I. Outdoor dinner on the river in the old Turkish sector downtown. BD pointed out the large number of BiH VIPs and EU delegates visiting the same location.
17 Jul 97 Thursday. Attended the 1100 hours press conference in the Holiday Hotel. Met former CBC reporter Sheila McVicar, now working for ABC. Interesting conference and lots of tension in the air. In the evening I was invited to the UK Int Corps reception. Interesting guests, including Alex, a former Russian NBC officer.
18 Jul 97 Friday. NIC meetings. Damage control for the UK. Invited to the Dutch NIC in the evening, good get together of NIC personnel.
NE BO-105 Helicopter, SFOR, Sarajevo.
19 Jul 97 Saturday. Ran into Col Hammond, CJ2 during lunch without being aware of how uninformed his staff kept him. I knocked over a hornet’s nest. I apparently ticked him off, but he had been bad-mouthing the NICs without good cause and with obviously poor information. I spoke again with him afterwards, and he invited me to meet in his office to discuss the NICs etc. In the evening the Brits put on another BBQ. Drove over to Zetra to visit the US PX. On the way back a toothless four year old stepped up to the Iltis to beg while we were stopped in the middle of four lanes of traffic. I gave him some fig-newton cookies. They are mostly Gypsies and want money (DM). Wish they wouldn’t run out in the traffic like that. Never got used to it, although there is so much of it. The child was missing his front teeth and could barely reach up through the jeep door. I reached down to pat his head, and it felt like it was caked with years of mud and dust. Sarajevo.
20 Jul 97 Sunday. Attended the service in Ilidza. Lots of messages. The UKNIC RSM took Dewi Blythe and I on a suburban battle zone tour of the back streets of Sarajevo. Lots of thunder and very close bolts of lightning struck everywhere all day. I had a chance to view some of the really major damage to the city that I might not otherwise have seen or known about. Excellent tour in the UK landrover through both sides of Sarajevo. We stopped for Cappuccino at the Park Café downtown, then drove back to Ilidza. CANIC BBQ just for our six-man crew. Took photos of the most vividly incredible double rainbow over our airfield during a light shower. A CH-47 Chinook helicopter gunship flew in.
Boeing CH-47 Chinook twin-engined, tandem rotor, heavy-lift helicopter, SFOR, Sarajevo, July 1997.
22 Jul 97 Tuesday. Out to the new SFOR camp at Butmir, just southwest of the airfield and located in the middle of the most heavily mined area in Bosnia. We followed the paved back routes of Sarajevo, then later visited an outdoor café right downtown near the largest cathedral. There were several Italian Carabinieri Military Police on the lookout. Stopped at the OHR on the return. Spoke with Violetta on Wendy’s replacement at DFAIT. His name is Andrew Shore and he is not due in for another two weeks. The Drop Point (DP) supply run arrived with new video movies and shoulder holsters. Visited by the Swedes.
24 Jul 97 Thursday Biked out to the Swan Park and back with Ian Steel. There are new land mine signs along the hillside edge of the park. Three-eyes conference in the morning. Pop run to the PX at Zetra. The Olympic Stadium SFOR installation is being evacuated so that it can be rebuilt. All the troops are being moved to Butmir. I called Faye and the boys in the evening. Sean had broken his left arm in hockey school. He has a cast on for the rest of the summer, not much fun for him.
25 Jul 97 Friday. All NICs meeting. Spoke with LCol Arneson with the NONIC (his unit rotates one person into Ilidza at a time, the rest are up near Tuzla). Also met LCol Grimaldi with the ITNIC, he later dropped into the CANIC for a visit and chat. WO MacKenzie went over to fix a problem with his CRONOS computer in the ITNIC (good trust-building). Spoke with LCol Jose Perez-Bevia from the SPNIC concerning some details from the morning’s meeting, as well as the Swedish and Dutch NIC COs. In the afternoon I met with LCdr Larry Ash in the USNIC along with the UKNIC crew for a VTC with our CANUKUS counterparts. The VTC electronics went tits-up and the meeting was therefore postponed. More Blackhawks roared in and out throughout the day. Had a get-together fest with the GENIC in the evening.
Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk four-blade, twin-engine, medium-lift utility helicopter, SFOR, Sarajevo.
26 Jul 97 10 AM start on a rod trip to VK (helicopter not confirmed). Drove up in the Mitsubishi with MCpl Steel via Snake route to Kiseljak. This particular side-route had almost no damage except for one restaurant for a distance of nearly 50 km, most unusual. We then came upon an old Serbian church with a big dome that had been wrecked. It is a very prosperous looking Bosniak Muslim area. Up to Brestovsko it looks OK, then suddenly we were back in an area with major ethnic cleansing evident. Some of the homes are being reoccupied. Small farms were the norm to Busovaca, a Dutch logistics base. We continued along Highway E761 (Diamond Route) to Kaonik, and then headed west to Vitez. Passed by a Castle-Fortress with a monastery, which abruptly appeared as we turned a sharp valley corner heading into the city of Travnik. On to Turbe with an Apache attack helicopter circling overhead. Crossed over a bailey bridge on top of the remains of a destroyed bridge span above Komar. Up over the saddle of a mountain with a fine view of the valley on the other side. Destroyed church at Komar, heavy ethnic cleansing to Oborci.
Boeing AH-64 Apache twin-turboshaft attack helicopter with a tailwheel-type landing gear arrangement and a tandem cockpit for a crew of two. It features a nose-mounted sensor suite for target acquisition and night vision systems. SFOR, Sarajevo.
Drove by the 2RRF Battalion at Donji Vakuf, fine old clock tower (missing the clock) in a fairly modern looking town. We then turned north to Sretan Put on Gull route to Jajce. There is a large castle ruin (500 years old, built before the Turkish invasion) sitting above the tunnel at Stoija. Large round tower with ivy growing on it below the fortress at Jajce. Stopped to take photos from the main road. Sunny after a rain-shower, beautiful farms and valleys. Large lake and river near Pliva, and a long tunnel. Passed through the Inter-Entity Boundary Line (IEBL) at Jezero. Major ethnic cleansing damage, most of the buildings shattered in this two km stretch on either side of the IEBL. The area is a no-man’s land and a place where black-market CDs and cassettes are sold by every enterprising vendor within walking distance.
On to the large modern town of Mrkonjic Grad in the Republika Srpska (RS). Velicovo ethnically cleansed. Big wedding party at Kljuc. Passed by a few of the Lord Strathcona’s Battle Group (LdSH BG) Grizzlies on patrol. Up to a high plateau of farmland and then back across the IEBL into Federation territory again. We were quite high up into the mountains with a great view of beautiful hills and valleys (and very steep drop-offs). There were very few homes visible, and virtually every single one of them had been destroyed. We came under a clear blue sky with patches of white clouds (not much industry left to pollute the air). Fine summer day. Open pastures at Klenovic, and severe ethnic cleansing, lots of damage everywhere. Dozens of wrecked farms, and no occupants seen. There were a few fresh haystacks (very few). The same in Bravsko. Ethnic cleansing to the nth degree. We drove past more large open fields and pastures, rolling foothills with small farms, all trashed. Passed a crashed DC-3 Dakota that appears to have been mounted on concrete pylons to preserve it as a memorial out in the middle of nowhere. Apparently there is (or was) an airstrip nearby that had been heavily fought over during the war. It sits in a barren area just south of Vtroce. There is a lot of severe cleansing and battle damage due to shellfire everywhere near here. We passed by a heavy crane trying to recover the cargo of a tractor-trailer that had been lost over a very long and steep drop down the side of a mountain.
The town of Ripoc appears to be more than 90% destroyed due to both battle and ethnic cleansing. Damaged railway. We pulled into the city of Bihac and stopped to buy some salted bread rolls (delicious, 3 loaves for 50 pfennigs) at a “Pekara” (bakery). Heavy rains raised the river levels at Kostela. Lots of Muslim headstones and tall white painted minarets for their mosques, many with new copper roofs. Passed a repaired or intact hotel at a road and river junction nearby, then drove up the hill towards Ostrozac and its well restored medieval castle with multi-turreted stone-curtain walls sitting above Srbljani. The castle sits on a hill in Ostrozac. Fog and steam rose from the road as a storm passed over us. We suddenly burst onto a high plateau into clear blue sky as the storm rolled behind us. Gently rolling fields, farms and well-cultivated farms unfolded. We passed by an M53/59 twin 30mm SPAAG (Czech & Yugo made), burned out on the edge of the road just south of Ripoc.
On to the Canadian camp at Coralici, on the left side and well marked. The guard on duty at the gate had been in 2 Commando with us when I was in Cyprus in 1986-87. Visited Capt Bob Martyn, the BG Int Officer. He has a nine person Int Section (including a DDG Private Hereford from the Reserve Int unit in Edmonton. The LdSH and the PPCLI make up the bulk of the battle group in Coralici. Ran into WO Blanchard, a (former jump student from 1978!). On to VK. Ran into Maj Dave Hackett (we had served in Edmonton together in 78 & 79 and 87). Met my new CO (Admin), Col Capstick. At least eight and a half hours of mountain driving to cover the 359 km between Sarajevo and VK. Drove up to VK castle with MCpl Steel after supper (on the approved trail). Ran into a farmer on a wagon following a very large pig (unusual for a Muslim farmer to have a pig, I would have thought). Beautiful hills and farms. We had a cappuccino in VK. Very nice evening, took lots of photographs.
AVGP Cougar AFV, SFOR, Velika Kladusa, July 1997.
27 Jul 97 Sunday. Breakfast in Camp. Czech Mi-17 Hip helicopter took off early. The five-bladed rotors make a very distinctive whistling sound. Drove 2-3 km into Croatia and north to Mihojska. You could see homes where people had returned and repaired their homes with new glass (a figure S is marked on the glass in soap), only top have it smashed out again, probably by the same neighbours who did it in the first place. The message is very clear, they don’t want these people to move back. South to Jovov, Dunjak, Donja Busovaca and then a loop back to Krstinja. Shot up farms everywhere. We stood on the pavement of one home and looked in the windowless rooms. In one there was a burned up workbench and toolboxes scattered about. It reminded me of Gramp’s tool drawer. I found a few coins (dinars) burned black. The buildings have been stripped of all useful fixtures and gutted or burned, vandalized or just plain trashed. I noticed that the gravestones of Serbs had been shot up with pistol rounds. The Croat and Bosniak ethnic cleansing of Serbs and their homes was just as intense here as what we have seen on the other side.
Light Armoured Vehicle II (LAV II) Bison armoured personnel carrier (APC) based on the 8x8 LAV-25 platform produced by General Dynamics Land Systems (Canada) in London, Ontario. SFOR, Velika Kladusa, July 1997.
Back to VK. Picked up some more video movies for the CANIC in the Service Battalion Stores and at the CCSFOR Welfare Office, along with fresh sheets etc. Took a half hour drive south to Melika Kladusa and Krakasa, then drove north behind a Bison on patrol to Todorovo.
AVGP Cougar AFVs, SFOR, Velika Kladusa, July 1997.
Several Cougars were also on the road. There was a Bosniak Muslim festival at the top to the hill, celebrating the re-opening of a large mosque with twin white minarets. To the right there stood a large medieval stone round tower. Hot and bright day. Back to VK. Short recce to Buzzard route, then lunch. Canadian Ambassador Serge Marcoux visited the camp and addressed the conference. Maj Richard Round gave a really good briefing on the OSCE and the September elections coming up. In the evening I took the opportunity to speak with a German speaking family who lived near the camp on the running rail. Afterwards, Ian and I drove into VK for cappuccino and ice cream. Back to camp (not a place one would really want to spend a lot of time in, let alone six months. Glad I work in Sarajevo).
28 Jul 97 Monday. Breakfast, then north on Buzzard route and southeast on winding roads. I am taking a different SFOR approved route each time so I can get to know the country better, as well as try to find a better route. It is all mountain driving however. Beautiful morning. Into Pozdvisd, mosque under construction. Into Vrnograc with a medium sized old walled castle in ruins on a small hill in the centre of town. Sharp turn at Mekanovici. Classic large and ancient medieval castle ruin high of the town of Rijecka Mulaci. It had towers, high walls and appeared to be quite large. Beautiful river, rapids, lots of construction, and very oddly, no damage for about 30-40 km. Then we suddenly ran into the large town of Otoka, with its main bridge blown up, its mosque shot to pieces, most major buildings demolished, and heavy battle damage everywhere. On Phoenix route south through heavy ethnic cleansing damage. Passed the Czech SFOR camp at Bosanska Krupa. Church shot to pieces below an old castle on the river. Stopped in an open market area, took pictures of the wrecked church.
Up into the mountains still on Phoenix route and heavier ethnic cleansing. Two more Bisons on patrol were visiting the Czech Camp at Jasenica. The desolation and destruction is like a scorched earth policy similar to what one reads about in Napoleonic times. Every building, no matter how remotely situated (and this area is remote) has been destroyed. We found a UNIPTF station in Lusci Patanka sited in a town that was completely wrecked. There are people carrying out repairs in the towns of Fnjtovici and Kamengrad (about 50% destroyed). We passed by British AS-90 155mm self-propelled guns in an SFOR camp at or near Sanski Most (Most means bridge). Factories and smoke stacks were operating.
Came upon a Czech recce platoon (the real thing), with three BMP-2 APCs and supporting SSVs, just like what I’ve been teaching from the books on Fantasian and Generic Enemy forces. The platoon crews were all taking a break. Rough road into Kljuc on Bluebird route. A Bison lead the way through town for us. We went back high up into the beautiful green mountains and through the IEBL again. Deep tree-lined valleys in the RS. There is a Serb church being repaired in Cadovica, and a large water reservoir high in the mountains. Mrkonjic Grad is a very large town in a bowl shaped valley. Heavy damage in Jezero. Back into Federation territory, with the cassette tape sellers on the IEBL boundary line. Large lake just above the town of Jajce, where we stopped for lunch (German style mixed kabob). We ate in a restaurant just under the 500-year-old castle overlooking the town. Drove up to the fortress through the old town for a closer look, but stayed in the vehicle on the pavement. Must visit again.
On to Donji Vakuf and way up into the mountains again. Lots of damage in Komar. Dutch M-113s on the route into Travnik. Lots of buildings under repair. Gigantic smokestack in the town. Large quarries, good road to Kakanj. Major detour through Visoko. The main highway (autobahn) bridge) had been blown down during the war and still causing a major detour, although SFOR is working on cutting the mess up and putting a bailey type bridge across. Back into Sarajevo, 400 km return trip in eight hours. In the evening LCol Michael Peisker took me aside and informed me that someone had gotten into the GENIC and spray painted a Canadian flag on it and then painted the words “Germany is Lost” over a map of Germany they had on display (the Ss were in the shape of SS runes, very offensive to them). I had to proceed with a formal investigation and there were a lot of ruffled feathers and smoothing of troubled waters required. I informed Col Morton and BIRT of the situation and the MPs from VK were requested to investigate. (In the end, it was determined that the Canadian flag had likely been on the container for several years, and that it was impossible for any members of the CANIC to have perpetrated the act. The clambering of Canadian MPs over the GENIC did much to convince them of how serious we considered the matter, and relations were eventually restored from a very frosty status).
29 Jul 97 Meetings, inter-NIC volleyball. LCol Dan Redburn visiting.
30 Jul 97 US four-star change of command, with Gen Crouch handing over the command of SFOR to Gen Shinseki. Gen Clark from SACEUR presided over the ceremony. Just before the ceremony I ran into Gen Crouch and spoke briefly with him about the weather etc. Spoke with Mette Nielsen about Madame Plavsic, one of the Serb leaders invited to the ceremony but who didn’t show up. Long chat with Maj Atec in the Turkish NIC. The Generals in charge of each of the three MNDs also change command, with MGen LeChatelier handing over to MGen Christian Delanghe in MND SE, MGen Montgomery C. Meigs handing over to MGen David L. Grange in MND N, and MGen Ramsay taking over in MND SW.
01 Aug 97 Friday. SFOR parade and awards ceremony presided over by the German COS, MGen Widder. All NICs meeting went well in the morning. Duty officer in the CANIC in the evening.
02 Aug 97 Saturday. Downtown, parked at the Parliament buildings near the Turkish Embassy. A BTR-80 APC protected the compound. Bought and sampled chocolate, Turkish Delight, outdoor cafe for lunch. Wet. Fresh salted bread. Back in the Iltis.
04 Aug 97 Monday. Col Capstick arrives from VK. Supper at Zelios with the Canadian Ambassador, Serge Marcoux and the SFOR Canadians in Sarajevo. Nice evening. Was picked up at the OHR. Spent part of the evening with LCol Tor Moe in the NONIC, and a German LCol (elections supervisor) discussing the September elections and anticipated problems that might be developing.
05 Aug 97 Tuesday. Col Capstick visited the CANIC. Lunch in the Srbija. In the evening Sgt Karin Berlin from the SWENIC drove the COs of all the NICs to their SWEDCON “home” at the far end of Sarajevo from NIC city. We went up through the middle hill road above the city on a beautiful sunny evening. Drove by a damaged synagogue and then back into the Bosniak sector. All 13 NICs were represented. The food was prepared by a Swedish Army cook and followed by songs, drink and interesting multi-national fellowship. Back to Ilidza before the 11 PM curfew. I spent more of the evening with Maj Reg Hodges and Maj Andrew Perry in the DSF and their crews.
06 Aug 97 Wednesday. Sgt Wagner drove Maj Andrew Perry, Maj Julian Moir and I to the RS stronghold of Pale, some 15 km east of the city and high up in the mountains. Pale is the adopted alternate capital of the senior Bosnian indicted war criminal, Radovan Karadzic, who stands in unsanctioned but de facto opposition to Madame Plavsic in the official RS capital in Banja Luka. We stopped at the one story Parliament building (looks like a junior school complex) where there were some decent RS souvenirs to buy. We drove by the FAMOS factory where Radovan and his cronies have their black armoured Mercedes’ parked.
UK Maj Andrew Perry, UN LCol from Senegal, CA Maj Hal Skaarup, UK Maj Julian Moir, Pale, Bosnia Herzegovina.
Stopped at an IPTF station in Pale and visited the Senegalese LCol in charge. This is his 5th UN mission and he was very well spoken. Back to Sarajevo through the mountains with a very steep drop on the side. Italian checkpoints along the route and a heavy thunderstorm late in the evening. Dinner with LCol Kjell Ericsson, Capt Haakon Schuessler and Sgt 1st Class Karin Berlin and all six CANIC personnel. Visited their residence and then walked down to a restaurant by the river for German cuisine. Back to their residence for coffee and songs.
View of an old stone bridge between Pale and Sarajevo.
07 Aug 97 Thursday. 9AM three-eyes meeting at the UKNIC.
08 Aug 97 Friday. 1100 meeting at the Holiday Hotel Press conference. Birthday Lunch at the Galleria Pizza place, best in Sarajevo. Brigitte took us on a video tour of the bombed out and shot-up areas in the back streets of Sarajevo (former front line). I passed on some questions that our NIC allies had forward concerning some of the RS political players etc. We then drove through the RS to the airport and then the damaged apartment area around Dobrinja. Back for the 4PM VTC for the CANUKUS community in the USNIC. In the evening we had a get-together with the Spanish NIC in the plywood palace. The Italian Army brought in two brass bands for evening entertainment. One of the bands (Bersaglieri or mountaineers) literally ran into the square playing their instruments.
09 Aug 97 Saturday. Meeting with CJ2, very touchy atmosphere. In the evening we went up the south hill to the reservoir overlooking the airport in Sarajevo. Found four shot-up BVP-M-80 APCs, tracks askew and their hulks smashed by High-explosive squash head (HESH) rounds. HESH is a type of explosive ammunition that is somewhat effective against tank armour and is also useful against buildings, fortifications and infantry. We then drove over to view the damaged Jewish synagogue and back downtown, taking some fair video footage along the way. Very hot.
10 Aug 97 Sunday. Farewell party in the UKNIC for the departing members of the CANIC, UKNIC, and GENIC.
11 Aug 97 Monday. CANIC Brainstorming session for all NICs. First meeting with members of the CANIC, NONIC, TUNIC, SWENIC, and UKNIC (GCHQ) from 0900-1000. Second meeting for the CANIC, ITNIC, NLNIC, SPNIC and CO UKNIC in the afternoon from 1300-1400. I had dubbed them think-tank sessions and advised all participants to bring an argument. They also had to bring a flak jacket if they felt that their particular opinion was the only correct one, since rank and flag had to be left at the door. Oh, and everyone had to have a cup of coffee and a cookie if they came in (harder to be disgruntled with a cup of coffee in your hand). Major disagreements were to be taken out to the penalty box the CANIC crew (an outdoor shed roofed over and wired with a stereo system above the benches). The Germans immediately dubbed the meetings “brainstorming” sessions, and the name stuck.
13 Aug 97 Wednesday. Capt Dave Owen and Sgt Mike Wagner flew back to Canada. WO MacKenzie and I visited the Mine Action Centre (MAC). Helmets, flak jacket and pistol mandatory anytime we moved out of the compound.
14 Aug 97 Thursday. CANUKUS meeting at 0900. 1100 Holiday Inn Press conference meeting with Brigitte, interesting background data. CANIC, ITNIC, SWENIC, DANIC, UKNIC, FRNIC, GENIC, USNIC meeting in the CANIC from 1300-1400.
15 Aug 97 Friday. Said farewell to BD at the airport. Drove back through Sarajevo and Ilidza to the tree lined park, video-taping the route with Ian driving.
16 Aug 97 Saturday. Biking up to the park with Ian, both armed. BBQ at the USNIC in the evening. Met US MGen Burns (sort of like Patton), and was asked to put the election question to him. He surprised me (and the onlookers) with a non-party line answer.
17 Aug 97 Sunday. Biking with WO Hal Pugh. CANIC BBQ in the evening after volleyball. Late night due to disturbances in Banja Luka. Eight British Scimitars moved in between rival police factions.
18 Aug 97 Monday. Brainstorming session in the CANIC, NONIC, USNIC, DANIC, UKNIC.
19 Aug 97 Tuesday. The DP arrived along with a financial WO. My pay situation was finally resolved. Up to Pale again with Sgt Gibeault and Capt Haywood. Back to Butmir. Stopped to discuss the situation in BiH with Andrew Shore, Canada’s DFAIT representative with the OHR, at the Galija Pizza place.
Andrew Shore was born in Montreal and died unexpectedly in Ottawa, 15 Dec 2020. In nearly 30 years with Global Affairs Canada, Andrew served abroad in the Canadian Embassy in Zagreb, in the Office of the High Representative in Sarajevo and in the Canadian High Commission in London. At home, he was a member of the Kosovo Task Force, director of the Global Partnership Program, director of the Humanitarian Affairs Division, director for Central America and the Caribbean and special advisor at the Canadian Foreign Service Institute. Perhaps his proudest achievement was his work on the Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel landmines.
20 Aug 97 Wednesday. Off to Mostar in the Mitsubishi with Sgt Chris Free and Capt Al Haywood. Grey morning. Moderate ethnic cleansing until we hit the major battlefields near Pazeric. Passed the ARBiH Army Camp at Bradina, noting a wrecked homemade APC, four 105mm guns, two D-30 122mm guns and a possible D-20 152mm gun. We were quite high up in the mountains during the start of the trip, lots of trees and very deep gorges, beautiful valley along the Neretva River and a long descent down to a large dam and below it. Lots of video of the area around Podarazic, fantastic scenery and steep mountains.
Down to Konjic with some shellfire damage in the town. Very heavy ethnic cleansing of Orthodox Serb homes by Croat Catholics and Bosniak Muslims. The distinctive house shapes for each of the three factions makes it easy to determine who is cleansing whom in any given area. The river was very low at Ostrozac. Crossing site guarded by a Ukrainian SFOR BTR-70. We stopped for a small cup of Espresso style coffee in Jablanica. More Ukrainian BTR-70s guarded the bridge near Grabovic, got a few video shots on the way. The ethnic cleansing or battle damage reached catastrophic proportions in all the villages here, about 91 km south of Sarajevo. Old pillbox positions, possibly from the Second World War era, stand across from the bridge to Dreznica.
The further south we went, more rock became visible on the mountains along with fewer trees and more low scrub brush. Lots of tunnels. Most Catholic Croat and Bosniak Muslim homes appeared to be intact, although there were very few houses in this steep valley. Large hydro dam at Salakovac, but all homes near it razed to the ground (some appear to have been literally bulldozed. There is a lot of UNHCR activity evident. Now it is Croat homes that are wrecked as the battlefield lines switched back and forth during the war. The devastation to buildings is continuous as the valley levels out. People are selling their crops and produce by the side of the road in abundance at Potoci, despite it being one of the hardest hit areas I’ve seen to date. Destroyed Catholic churches and more heavy battle damage and or ethnic cleansing down to Mostar. We drove by a French, Ukrainian, Moroccan Camp at Vrapcici and then into Mostar.
We crossed the main bridge and then drove through the downtown area. Their sports stadium was destroyed, and there were several damaged apartments some distance from the front line. The smashing and pounding suffered by the buildings on the river however, was incredible. The old bridge in Mostar had been destroyed in 1993, but the army had built a suspension bridge across the site for pedestrian traffic. I took pictures of a newer bridge that had also been dropped into the river gorge during the war, as well as a fair amount of video footage. As we walked over the suspension bridge I had the déja vu sensation of having done this before (on the bridge at Capilano in BC). We bobbed up and down as the other pedestrians strode across the bridge. We toured the old market with its antiques, bought postcards, videotaped each other on the bridge etc. More pictures of the frontline damage as we headed back to the main bridge to the north of town and looped up over the city on the way to HQ MND SE at Camp Ortijes on the east side of the river. The French, Spanish, Moroccans, Germans and three Canadians occupy this Camp.
We visited the AMIB team in Camp Ortijes. Also noted about a dozen or more AMX-10 RCs in the compound. Bought a Bosnia souvenir SFOR plaque for Dad. We delivered mail to LCdr LaViolette. Paid DM 14 (about $10) for a bottle of Irish Cream in the French PX (it’s about $27 in Canada). The German PX was closed. We drove up the switch back roads above the Mostar aluminum and airplane factory taking a recommended back route to Mostar. The weather had been fair during our visit, but it began to rain as we came back into the city and continued as we looped through the town and headed on back up the Neretva valley towards Sarajevo. We noticed the downed railway bridge at Jablanica, but later determined that it had been destroyed during the Second World War by Tito’s forces to stop the Germans, and is now being left that way as a memorial to the battle. Small train parked on the tracks above it. Passed another BTR-70 and elements of an SFOR convoy heading up the hill past us in the rain near Konjic. Noted at least one M-47 or TD type tank in the ARBiH compound at Bradina.
21 Aug 97 Thursday. Multi-NIC meeting in the CANIC with representatives from the ITNIC, GENIC, SWENIC, NLNIC, TUNIC, UKNIC and FRNIC, as well as a Portuguese rep and a US CJ3 rep.
22 Aug 97 Friday. Met Nathan Gelbard (US Embassy/DIA). We participated in the VTC at the USNIC. Said farewell to my roommate, LCol Dieter Beckers, at a BBQ in the GENIC. Discussed a vehicle accident with a US Tech Sgt E-7. spoke with the German COS, MGen Widder etc (two star Prussian Armoured officer). Interesting gab with MGen Widder, a German officer straight out of an old panzer movie, and a classic backslapping bear of a Mountain. He never spoke with an individual without physically having a hand on his shoulder, arm or back. He also seemed to enjoy talking with the group of us, which included the junior members of his staff. Long chat with Major Andrew Perry. Andrew has been a good friend, but he is leaving on Saturday to head back to Monchengladbach, Germany, to be the OC 7 MI Coy, 1 MI Bn. Duty officer in the CANIC.
23 Aug 97 Saturday. Departed Ilidza en route to Tuzla. Nice morning. Germans on the gate, replacing our Norwegians who were deployed up north. Up into the mountains with very steep sides and no guardrails covering the drop-offs. Ethnic cleansing very heavy. The town of Olivo is rebuilding, holes in the apartments have been re-cemented, rooms repaired, blemishes painted over etc. More mountains, very rugged and very heavily forested. The morning stayed beautiful, although the roads wound back and forth like saw-tooth. We passed a US SFOR convoy stopped halfway up the mountain in a very awkward spot to pass. Into the village of Kladanj, relatively undamaged although there are machine-gun rounds in the walls here and there. Up to Zivinice and then east on Ostrich route to the US MND N HQ at their “Eagle Base.” Visited the PX, had lunch at the Taco Bell and then back on Ostrich route west and north on Skoda and Hawk route then east to Tuzla. Hot day. Into the city with its high-rises and mosques and churches. There is almost no sign of damage other than from some machine-gun fire here and there.
Just outside the city is a large chemical plant with gigantic chimneys reminiscent of the pictures you see of Three Mile Island. The countryside is level and changes to very low hills north of Tuzla until it flattens out altogether. The Swedish contingent has their camp just to the north of the US base on the road to Tuzla. There is no sign of ethnic cleansing until you reach the IEBL, and the Croat, Bosniak and Serb homes all appear to be intact. We passed through Canici into an area very similar to VK. Near Tinja we saw a large medieval castle high on a hill off to the east of Srebrenik. At the IEBL we came upon the infamous “Arizona Market” with a proliferation of vendors selling watermelon, cassette tapes, car parts and just about anything legal or illegal you could think of on the regular as well as the black market in this “no-man’s land” between the Federation and the RS.
Just past the Arizona market, the devastation begins again. The farms are not worked for about four km, then suddenly the view changes and there are fields of corn, ploughed fields and freshly painted Serb homes, although we are still on Arizona route. We turned and drove east to Brcko on Texas route. Brcko is a beautiful little town on the Sava river, and the site of the most controversy between the three factions in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is locked up tight by the US, and as we entered the shot up area of the city, a Blackhawk helicopter constantly hovered overhead. (Three days later the RS organized a “spontaneous” demonstration that led to the burning of 40 vehicles belonging to members of the IPTF in Brcko). A US Bradley guarded the main river-crossing site in to the town. It is a very picturesque old town, well worth a visit.
We then drove east along the Sava river and into another beautiful old city, Bijelijna. It was nearly untouched by the war, nice shops etc. We stopped for ice cream and cappuccino, then walked around the farmer’s market. Lots of outdoor cafes, very pleasant evening. We drove south towards Zvornik. Lots of horse drawn carts and hayloads on the road. Very flat and fine farm country around Janja as we headed south along the “Posavina” corridor. Lots of corn and fruit stands. We passed a VRS T-55 tank compound near Zvornik. Stopped to view an old wall and tower that had been built in the 15th century.
We had a fine sunny evening as we drove along the river and the sunset in the hills above Milice. The countryside is similar to that around Lahr. Then we came back upon the ethnic cleansing again. Children, families, young people were out walking everywhere (it is summer after all). Men and women were out taking their cows for a walk. The men were cutting hay with scythes and hand sickles. Very little haze from industrial pollution (few industries up and running at the moment). We stopped to eat in a restaurant at Vlasenica. The owner was reluctant to let armed soldiers in (bad for business, he explained in German), but agreed to let us eat outdoors and served us “deer medallions.” As we ate, we noticed some very interested visitors inspecting our Mitsubishi. In fact, too many and too often the same swarthy individuals for our comfort. We paid our bill and hauled freight up the mountains, driving back to Sarajevo in the dark via the Pale overpass. An Italian Centauro (an eight-wheeled AFV armed with a 105mm gun) and an American convoy passed us on the way very reassuring). We rolled into Sarajevo at night on a very pleasant but cool evening.
28 Aug 97 Wednesday. Brcko exploded in the morning. Organized “demonstrators” were brought in by bus to support the Pale faction of the RS in order to harass and intimidate the UN IPTF. SFOR is not supposed to fight unarmed civilians. That is the UN Police Force's job. These demonstrators however, destroyed police cars at the station, then “cleansed” the station itself, then walked to the specific homes of the IPTF and burned their vehicles there as well. At least 40 were torched during the demonstration.
Our Canadian RCMP colleague, Duncan, was one of the few who stayed to monitor the situation in the city throughout the crisis. Our regular three-eyes meeting was interesting. A long period of writing reports followed. By about 3 PM the show was over, and the spontaneous demonstrators in Brcko were paid and driven back to their homes in time for supper. At the evening VTC, BGen Munro tried to lighten up the atmosphere by bemoaning the lack of music. I went back and got our miniature tape recorder and taped a bit of “Monty Python” music to have for the next morning’s VTC.
29 Aug 97 At the 0800 VTC I waited until the Brigadier marched in and as he came by I hit the tape. The Italian beside me jumped to distance himself, but the Brigadiers aide, a Scottish major gave me a thumbs up. The Brigadier hollered “that’s not my regimental march,” but then he smiled and sat down. (The Scottish major later went one better, and did the same thing only with the right march. I spent weeks trying to find a real piper to see if I could one up him again, but both of us were posted out. No point in letting everyone get bored). We had a very good all-NICs meeting at 0930.
The Turkish Medal of Independence (?stiklal Madalyas?) was a special military decoration issued in limited number by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in accordance with the Act 66 of 29 November 1920. It was awarded to military personnel and civilians, who had made important contributions to the country during the Turkish War of Independence. Also upon the flags of all the regiments of the Turkish National Forces, which took part in the campaigns during the occupationof Izmir between 15 May 1919 and 9 September 1922, were bestowed a medal.
I had a very long chat with the Turkish NIC CO, Col Celik. Col Celik took out a red-ribboned gold medal that his father had earned during the Turkish war of Independence during the 1920s. As a serving member of the Turkish Army, this is the one day he was permitted to wear it on his father’s behalf. He invited me as his guest to the Turkish Victory Day celebration at the Army Hall in downtown Sarajevo. He picked me up in his land rover and we were driven to the hall with flags flying. I was introduced to a Bosnian BGen and several translators. Difficult discussion with the attaché’s translator. We observed a promotion ceremony for three Turkish officers, two of whom I knew. One was promoted to LCol and one to Maj. The recipients are bussed on both cheeks in the same manner as the French officers. Very interesting evening.
30 Aug 97 Saturday. 0800 VTC. Routes clear in preparation for the trip to VK. Capt Haywood informed me of a situation concerning a senior Canadian in Sarajevo. I had a very interesting discussion with Col Morton, then got on the road to VK with WO MacKenzie by 0830. Wet morning with fog and lots of clouds as we went up Finch route to Visoko. We still have to detour around the destroyed bridge near the former Canadian camp at Visoko, but here is a lot of reconstruction underway. I kept the video running for most of the day. At the Fortress of Jajce we turned north and headed up a beautiful river gorge to the city of Banja Luka in the RS. The sun came out and made it an astonishingly beautiful drive in the morning sunlight with the clouds lifting. We drove by a very old multi-faceted stone castle tower with a large curtain wall and bevelled conical shape to it, half way to Banja Luka. There were several large tunnels along the way and large rocks overhanging the road in many places. Lots of rockfall on the road itself, wouldn’t want to drive here at night.
We crossed the IEBL into the RS on good roads with little traffic. Banja Luka is a city with lots of trees lining the streets, and no visible damage. Lots of shops and large department stores, it looks like a thriving city. (How did it escape the war?). We passed by the parliament buildings (guarded by the only soldiers in the RS permitted by SFOR to carry rifles, very unusual). We drove north to the UNIPTF camp and then west to the MND SE HQ camp where we stopped for lunch at Echos (British PX restaurant). A large VRS military camp was very close to the UN camp and not far from the SFOR HQ. From MND SE HQ, we headed straight west to Prijedor. As we neared the Croatian border the ethnic cleansing became evident again with a vengeance. By the time we hit the town of Osaka situated on a beautiful river, the entire area appeared to have been smashed. The bridge had been blown and a bailey bridge had taken its place. The heavy damage appeared to be due to shellfire, with the mosque minarets blown off, although parts of the town appeared to be undergoing repairs.
We followed the river to the RS border, marked by a black market for cars (most of which were likely stolen as the licence plates represented nearly every member of the EC. We had a beautiful drive overland and uphill past an old walled town with a small fortress above the town of Cazin. We made a brief stop at the Canadian camp in Coralici to visit Capt Martyn and his Int staff, then headed on up to Velika Kladusa. At the Canadian camp they gave us each a single room in a COREMEC container, very nice. Very cool in the evening. Had a very interesting chat with Maj Steve Eyres reference my senior Canadian situation in Ilidza. He gave some useful advice, which I followed up on. Diana Princess of Wales was killed in a car crash in Paris, when the Mercedes she was being driven in hit a concrete barrier at 120 kph. They were in a tunnel in Paris being pursued by Paparazzi when it happened about midnight. What a waste.
Princess Diana, June 1997.
31 Aug 97 Sunday. Beautiful clear blue sky on a cool Sunday morning. Went fo r a road run in the morning sunlight around the camp. Had a useful chat with Col Capstick reference the Ilidza situation, he was in fine form as well. Lunch with the CCSFOR and staff. The monthly meeting was relatively short (13:15 to 16:15). In the evening WO Mackenzie and I drove up to VK castle and took some videos. The castle is the restored but private estate of Fikret Abdic, a local political pariah etc. We then drove across the border to Croatia and circled around the paved routes of the local villages. Back into VK for ice cream and cappuccino. Had a long chat reference intelligence reports with the G3. Late night, with Venus visible in the east and Mars visible in the west, both very bright.
01 Sep 97 Monday. Canada Day. Clear cool sky at dawn. We headed south to Coralici and dropped in on Capt Martyn for a longer visit. Arranging to bring a few of his Int ops down to Sarajevo for some OJT (and a change). We drove on to Bihac and circled through the town, stopping for salted bread rolls (five for 1 DM) on the way. Very impressive castle on a hill just south of Bihac, but obscured by villages that have suffered some very heavy ethnic cleansing. South on Bluebird route to Bosanski Petrovac, passing long expanses of abandoned, trashed and neglected farms in large valley wide plains. Passed the wrecked DC-3 memorial near Vitoce. We turned south on Emu route and drove up over the mountains towards the town of Drvar. On the way we passed a large stand of tees planted on a bare hill spelling out Tito’s name We drove up past a ski resort that had serious damage and the Croatian flag flying everywhere and down the other side of the mountain into Tito Drvar. The town has suffered a lot of damage. Lots of political posters. The site falls under the Canadian Area of Operations (AOR) and is continuously bubbling along with violent demonstrations and confrontations. There are a lot of political posters on display and HVO troops everywhere.
We drove east through the town and continued on up into the mountains through forestry and logging roads. The SFOR approved route turned into a gravel and dirt road (we have a serious aversion to dirt due to landmines). Way up on a remote forestry road on Stork route, of course meeting a tractor-trailer logging truck. The mountains were really high here, and it was a long slow zigzag up past what appear to have been abandoned refugee huts or very old peasant farm homes in the Croatian style. It was a long jaunt through the woods. Stork is well signed, but I would never take it again. We finally came out of the woods at G. Ribnik, still about 5,000’ up the mountain thinking we were nearing the bottom. Beautiful tree lined valleys (they are only just beginning to learn how to log the large trees high up the mountains). North to Zablace and back on Bluebird route east to Mrkonjic Grad. South to Jezero and onto Vulture route to Sipovo.
We stopped for a pop and chip break at the UK SFOR base in Sipovo (King’s Royal Hussars equipped with Scimitars). Back up the mountains again and south on Parrot route. Noted a major change in the terrain as we ascended. Lots of stone and thicket walls and fences. Ghost town on the IEBL, and then a wide bare plain at 5,000’ stretching out to the mountains on the far horizon. Hard to believe we were in the same country. Right in the middle of the most remote stretch of plain with every house and farm within 50 km destroyed, we came upon Ice Station Zebra, a former Canadian Checkpoint. Malaysians manned it, and I have yet to see a more remote or bleak OP in the country (although some of the Czech camps come close). We drove on into the severely damaged town of Kupres and back into Federation territory with Croatian flags flying everywhere (not the new approved Federation or even the Bosniak flag). North on Gull route to Donji Vakuf, where British engineers were putting a new bailey bridge across the river. We zigzagged again over the high volcanic peaks with a fine sunset over the mountains behind us, taking the main route back into Sarajevo. Arrived about 21:10 hours after a long trip. Slept well.
04 Sep 97 Thursday. Visited the Canadian Embassy staff and introduced my DCO, Capt Haywood to Kati Csaba. She had asked us to brief one of her colleagues with the Canadian International Development Agencty (CIDA), Joanne Doherty, a senior project officer for media and relations. In the evening I went for a bike ride with Kjell to Tito’s burned out residence near our park.
Maj Hal Skaarup with the Statue of Tito in Sarajevo.
Josip Broz (7 May 1892 – 4 May 1980), commonly known as Tito, was a Yugoslav communist revolutionary and statesman, serving in various roles from 1943 until his death in 1980. During the Second World War, he was the leader of the Partisans, often regarded as the most effective resistance movement in occupied Europe. He also served as the President of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 14 January 1953 until his death on 4 May 1980.
After the war, he was the chief architect of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY), serving as both Prime Minister (1944–1963), President (later President for life) (1953–1980), and Marshal of Yugoslavia, the highest rank of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA). Despite being one of the founders of Cominform, he became the first Cominform member to defy Soviet hegemony in 1948. He was the only leader in Joseph Stalin's time to leave Cominform and begin with his country's own socialist program, which contained elements of market socialism. Economists active in the former Yugoslavia, including Czech-born Jaroslav Vanek and Yugoslav-born Branko Horvat, promoted a model of market socialism that was dubbed the Illyrian model. Firms were socially owned by their employees and structured on workers' self-management; they competed in open and free markets . Tito managed to keep ethnic tensions under control by delegating as much power as possible to each republic. The 1974 Yugoslav Constitution defined SFR Yugoslavia as a "federal republic of equal nations and nationalities, freely united on the principle of brotherhood and unity in achieving specific and common interest." Each republic was also given the right to self-determination and secession if done through legal channels. Lastly, Tito gave Kosovo and Vojvodina, the two constituent provinces of Serbia, substantially increased autonomy, including de facto veto power in the Serbian parliament. Tito built a very powerful cult of personality around himself, which was maintained by the League of Communists of Yugoslavia after his death. Twelve years after his death, as communism collapsed iin Eastern Europe, Yugoslavia dissolved and descended into civil war.
FR Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma four-bladed, twin-engined medium transport/utility helicopter. The Puma was originally built by Sud Aviation of France, and continued to be made by Aérospatiale. SFOR, Sarajevo, 1997.
06 Sep 97 Saturday. FR Puma and US Blackhawk helicopters on the ramp this morning. Up to the reservoir with Sgt Free to video tape the wrecked BVP-M-80 APCs, then downtown. Picked up Joanne Doherty from CIDA at the Holiday Inn for a day tour of the region. Gave her the nickname “Red” because of her outfit. We drove through some of the wrecked high-rises and apartments in Dobrinja and over towards Butmir. We then headed south on Tuna route to Hen route. French sentries would not permit access on the eastern route. We therefore headed south along the river to Foca, passing some beautiful country in warm sunshine. We drove into Foca, where most of the bridges were down, and had lunch at a nice restaurant outdoors. Northeast to Gorazde, passing in and out of the RS on the IEBL. Large French base nearby, lots of VAB APCs. Crossroads at Podromanija. Southwest to Sarajevo. Dropped Red off at the Holiday Inn, and then headed back to camp. Biking again.
09 Sep 97 Tuesday. Time for a few days short leave. A German flight was heading up to Ramstein and other options had fallen through, so I thought a visit to Germany and the Baden baths might be a great idea for a rest and a change.
09 Sep 97 2141 C-130 Hercules flight from Sarajevo to Zagreb. 2142 C-160 Transall flight from Zagreb, Croatia to Ramstein, Germany. The flight in the Transall (my first in this type of aircraft), was cold, but we had an excellent view of the Alps, and some familiar parts of Germany. Ramstein is a large US transport base we used to visit because of its shopping mall sized PX. I rented a small blue Opel Corsa on the base at a reasonable rate, and got on the road to Zweibrücken after passing by Nannstein castle via Landstuhl. I toured my old school (Schönblick) in Zweibrücken (sure seems small) and drove down Ontario Straßße and Quebec Straßße. Kanadisher (Canadian) Schule signs still in place. It is a junior school and is being renovated. The Canadian base we lived near from 1959 to 1963 became an American base when the Canadians downsized the four fighter bases to one in 1968. The Americans left it in 1982 and the Germans moved in. The base is now used by a civilian engineering firm and as a private airport. I walked around the old Markt Platz downtown, the old palace is in excellent shape. I went out to the old “home” grounds near the base, and noted the trees that I climbed as a kid were still in place. I then headed overland on back roads reminiscing, and pulled into Pirmasens for the night. (DM 97 for a hotel). Nice waterfall above the palace in town. Walked the pedestrian mall and stopped for Italian ice cream and a cappuccino. Rest.
10 Sep 97 Wednesday. Fruhstuck (breakfast) in the hotel, then on the road to Neu Dahn in beautiful early morning sunshine burning off a light fog. Deer park below the castle. On to Alt Dahn, built in 1120, now one of the largest castle ruins in the region. Good climb, huge castle, walked all through it. It was built in three parts. Great morning for photographs. On to Drachenfels, and another middle level climb up extensive rock cuts rooms and stairs within a large ruin. It is under repair and a lot more of it has been restored since my last visit five years ago. Met a young German couple at the top on holiday.
Burg Berwartstein, a castle in the Wasgau, the southern part of the Palatinate Forest in the Rhineland-Palatinate state in southwestern Germany. It was one of the rock castles that were part of the defences of the Palatinate during the Middle Ages.
I drove up to this “Robber’s Castle” at Berwartstein. First visited this castle the summer of 1959, and I still remember the deep well. I tagged on to a guided tour in German a school class. It took eight seconds for the water the guide poured into the well to hit the bottom of the 108 metre deep hand cut well. Reviewed the armour, catapult stone balls, shields and crests of family coats of arms etc. Hopped the fence below the original rock cut entrance and continued on back into town.
Reichsburg Trifels is a reconstructed medieval castle at an elevation of 500 m (1,600 ft) near the small town of Annweiler, in the
Palatinate region of southwestern Germany.
Back on the road, I drove north to visit Trifels castle and walked up to explore the chamber where Richard Couer de Lion
(the Lionheart) was held prisoner during his return from the Crusades in 1192. (During my last visit here in 1992 I received a
really nasty dog bite to my chest). Replicas of the German crown jewels, including a sword, orb, crown and holy articles on
display in the original treasure chamber. They were reproductions in real gold. The story of Richard was well illustrated in his
former prison cell.
There are many castles in the surrounding areas of the Rhineland-Palatinate, and over the years I have visited and photographed most of them. On to Landstuhl, passing under the major ruins of Magdenburg castle, and into the city of Karlsruhe. Stopped for some plum cake, walked Karlsruhe (Karl’s view) palace grounds and the pedestrian mall. Picked up some more film and ice cream. On to the pink palace at Rastatt. Into the former Canadian base at Baden-Soellingen (now a commercial airpark). The old green air traffic control tower that I used to skirt while coming in to land with my parachute is now painted a bright white and is used for the commercial airport on site. The remainder of the base is not well used and much of it is locked up.
I drove a very familiar autobahn route south to Lahr, pulling into the base under the Schutterlindenburg. The airport theatre is now an indoor-outdoor skateboard centre. The old fire hall has been turned into a Gasthaus style No 2 Royal Canadian Legion. The only airplane on the base was a two-seat MiG-15 parked down in the old Service Battalion lines. The NBCW building is now the Video 8 Discotek. The green catholic church is now cream coloured and called the Flugplatz Kirke. Lahr itself does not appear to have changed much.
Drove by 101 Schwarzwald Straßße (where we lived from 89-92), the Bank of Montreal (now a Turkish Market), and our former PMQ area (where we lived from 81-83). The Kaserne has the appearance of a tumbleweed-like ghost town, very sad. The BFOM is now painted white and is used as a hotel for family members visiting people in the hospital, which is well used and a going concern. I drove up to the castle ruins of Hohengeroldseck, which hasn’t changed much since the French burnt it in 1689. Back through Lahr, looping around some of the streets, very familiar and much the same as when we left it. I took the autobahn back to Baden-Baden. Paid DM 19 for a two hour soak in the Caracalla baths and thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. Spent the night in the Hotel Schwann (DM 70) near the base in Baden-Soellingen after a brief walk around town.
11 Sep 97 Thursday. Fruhstuck in the hotel, then on the side roads northeast to Bruchsal palace. Walked the grounds and took some decent photos in the bright early morning sunshine. Overland to the Sinzheim transport museum. There are many changes and additions since my last visit, the boys would have loved checking out the Ferraris and Lamborghinis again, as well as the new additions like the Vector. There are dozens of aircraft mounted on pylons outside, and a new collection of aircraft (i.e. MiG-21, MiG-23, Su-22), tanks (i.e. T-72) and armoured vehicles (i.e. BMP-1) from the former DDR. The naval gun brought up from the Tirpitz is on display outdoors. Great dioramas on display inside and the Me-109 and FW-190 are well presented. The Tiger I had been removed. I then took the autobahn west to Speyer and toured the newly opened sister museum with the submarine U-9, as well as a Biber and Seehund submarines on display. Aircraft included a Phantom, Mi-8 Hip, MiG-23, and a Sabre painted in Canada’s Golden Hawk markings. Both museums are well worth the visit. Walked around the Speyer cathedral and downtown, fantastic old town and Markt Platz, but very hot. On the road again west to Bad Durkheim and on to the castle at Hardenburg via the forest route. Into Kaiserslautern and a detour to Ramstein . Spent the evening in the North American style base hotel, the Ramstein Inn, for $12 US. PX in the evening etc. I turned in the Opel with 700km on the car.
12 Sep 97 Friday. 0600 wakeup and a taxi to the airport, only to find there was a three-hour delay in the departure. C-160 Transall flight from Ramstein to Zagreb. 2144 C-130 Hercules flight from Zagreb to Sarajevo. MCpl Steel, PO Gibeault and Sgt Free picked me up. We drove past the NATO Secretary General and SACEUR and their entourages on the way back to Ilidza. Back to work. Evening bike ride with LCdr Brian Wall out to the park. Duty officer that night in the CANIC.
13 Sep 97 Saturday. Election day in the RS, quiet so far. Part I. Good chat with Faye on the phone.
14 Sep 97 Sunday. Election day, Part II, also quiet.
15 Sep 97 Monday. Start of my trip back to Canada for mid-tour leave. Lunch at the French PX in Sarajevo. Picked up a duty free bottle of Irish Cream.
15 Sep 97 2145 Lockheed CC-130 Hercules from Sarajevo to Zagreb. Spent the evening in the Holiday Hotel and then went downtown for a long walk. Sunny and warm.
16 Sep 97 Tuesday. Beautiful morning, breakfast in the hotel, then took a streetcar downtown. Walked up the “park” hill. Had a cappuccino at a neat little café on what I thought was an obscure side street. Sitting beside me were two members of the Danish contingent that I worked with in Sarajevo. Explored the cathedral, helped move a stalled car, and generally walked my brains out exploring the city. When I got tired I took streetcars to the four corners of the city, then walked some more. Went to the movie Con Air in the evening (in English with Croatian sub-titles). At 21:10 hours I observed an eclipse of the moon. Very clear skies. Walked to the Glavni Kolodvor train station and its underground mall. Caught the SFOR bus back to the hotel, along with a UK Col from the AMIB in Sarajevo.
17 Sep 97 Wednesday. Out to Camp Pleso and on to Croatian Airlines at Zagreb airport to start my flights home. 2146 B-737 flight from Zagreb to Zurich, Switzerland. 2147 B-767-300 from Zurich to Montreal. 2148 Jetstream 41 flight from Montreal to Fredericton. Faye and the boys were waiting, sure glad to be home! Everyone looked great. Shaved my moustache off in the evening. Had a good rest and quality time with my family, but all too soon, it was time to go back.
06 Oct 97 Monday. Out to the airport and ready to go back to SFOR duty in Bosnia-Herzegovina. 2149 CL-65 flight from Fredericton to Toronto. 2150 B-767-300 Swissair flight from Toronto to Zurich. 2151 B-737-200 from Zurich to Zagreb. Two Croat Mi-24 Hind helicopters flew into the airport over us while our flight was delayed. Hot and sunny.
Croatian Mi-24 Hind.
07 Oct 97 2152 C-130 Hercules flight from Zagreb to Sarajevo. Tuesday morning, back on the line. Made chocolate cookies in the evening and invited over the NIC crews that were still on duty. Gave some of the canned fur-balls to three USNIC personnel.
09 Oct 97 Thursday. Three-eyes meeting in the morning. Multi-NIC brainstorming session in the afternoon at the CANIC.
10 Oct 97 Friday. All NIC meeting chaired by CJ2 US BGen Isler and his deputy, US Col Faucheux and their COS, GE LCol Schwaibold. Interesting new group, and an improvement in communications (so far).
11 Oct 97 Saturday. The Spanish NIC invited the COs to meet their visiting Spanish Major-General. Lots of Sangria, spiced meats and cheese. Very heavy rainfall.
12 Oct 97 Sunday. Echos church service. Went to a luncheon at noon with Canada’s Ambassador to NATO, Mr Wright. Rain. Ambassador Wright and Ambassador Marcoux and their staffs visited the CANIC before departing by helicopter. It was a good visit, and he seemed to have gained a lot from it. I mentioned the assistance the Canadian Embassy in Sarajevo had given us during an incident earlier on in the tour, and Mr Marcoux just beamed. He therefore decided that we should have regular meetings at least every second week.
13 Oct 97 Monday. Multi-NIC brainstorming session in the afternoon. Discussions with AJ and the CO TUNIC.
14 Oct 97 Tuesday. All-NIC meeting in the afternoon. Eight inches of snow fell on us, very wet.
US, US, CA Maj Hal Skaarup, US, CA Capt Al Haywood, US Maj, US Maj.
UK GCHQ LO Dewi Blythe, WO Byron MacKenzie, UK Llewlyn, analyst with a Welsh dragon flag on his shoulder, US, US LCdr Larry Ash, CO of the USNIC.
16 Oct 97 Thursday. Three-eyes meeting in the morning, multi-NIC meeting in the afternoon.
17 Oct 97 Friday. 09:30 visit with Ambassador Marcoux at the Canadian Embassy. We parked our Iltis in the Turkish Embassy compound with its BTR-80 guarding the gate.
18 Oct 97 Saturday. Biked over to Butmir and back, sunny. CH-53 Super Stallion made a very noisy visit late at night.
19 Oct 97 Sunday. Echoes church service. Computer repair technicians arrived to put our unserviceable equipment back on line (hooray!).
22 Oct 97 Wednesday. Biked west on a paved trail, sunny and +17°.
23 Oct 97 Thursday. Three-eyes and multi-NIC brainstorm meetings. Biked into Ilidza and videotaped children carrying Superman posters warning children to stay away from mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). Showed a copy of the video to the US SFOR public affairs personnel.
25 Oct 97 Saturday. Bike ride. Duty officer. Midnight time change.
26 Oct 97 Sunday. Afternoon walk through the old Turkish Market with PO Gibeault. Bought a souvenir plaque and a Russian Artillery Major’s dress uniform. (It is now on display in the New Brunswick Military History Museum, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown). We had a pizza at the Galleria with Sgt Free and Capt Haywood. Sat out in the CANIC porch in the evening listening to music with Brian and our crew. Their theme song is “I’m all stressed out.” Video taped some of it.
27 Oct 97 Monday. Heavy wet snowfall in the evening.
28 Oct 97 Tuesday. White landscape, much like Christmas. I biked over to Butmir, very cold. Jammed up the CANIC CD player. Disassembled it and put it back together in working condition OK. Visited by British Intelligence Communications personnel, Sheila Simpson and Gwyneth Givens. Water off, power off, not much fun. Had an interesting CO - DCO chat.
29 Oct 97 Wednesday. I presented a CANIC commemorative plaque to the TUNIC on their Turkish National Day. It is also the 15th/55th anniversary of the Intelligence Branch/C Int C. The power is still off, lots of snow and it’s cold.
07 Nov 97 Friday. Down to the Canadian Embassy to brief CIDA representative Stephen Wallace. Over to the Turkish Market, picked up a pre-war book on Sarajevo for a souvenir.
08 Nov 97 Saturday. Wet rainy day drive with Sgt Mario Paris and Sgt Chris Free down the Neretva River valley to visit MND SE HQ in Mostar. We stopped at the French and German PXs on the way. Over the mountains to the pilgrimage town of Medugorje. Into the cathedral Chris and around to view the mountains from the back in very heavy rain, thunder and lightning. Getting an unusual sense of the place. WO Martineau had a car smash his vehicle mirror just beside the shop we were in, attracting our attention (another unusual coincidence). He took us up into the mountains where his AMIB unit is located. The site overlooks Medugorje, and is not far from where six children believe they were (and continue to be) visited by an apparition of the Virgin Mary. Quite the place, lots of Italian soldiers visiting the site. We drove on down to Caplina with its fortified monastery and then back into Mostar, still raining. Stopped to walk over the suspension bridge again, spoke with a visiting BBC film crew, exchanged souvenirs. Back up the Neretva valley passing the battlefields and heavy damage one never gets used to seeing. Very light yellow orange rain clouds above the mountains and fall leaves giving off a strange golden hue to the area. Duty officer in the evening.
09 Nov 97 Sunday. Bike ride with an OMI representative, Cathy Gill from the USNIC to the swan park. Interesting discussion on who’s who in the intelligence community zoo by the waterfall. She didn’t mention until just before my tour ended that she was a much higher rank than me in a particularly interesting part of that community (full Col equivalent).
11 Nov 97 Tuesday. Remembrance Day parade with the UK/Commonwealth forces in the morning. In the early afternoon, Col Morton presented SFOR medals to WO MacKenzie, PO Gibeault, Sgt Free and myself. Col Celik from the TUNIC and LCol Ericcson and the entire SWENIC attended. Col Celik then said goodbye, as he is posted to Rome as a military attaché. Ataturk would have been proud of him.
15 Nov 97 Friday. 0810 start on a trip to Trebinje. Cloudy with a few rays of sunlight and fog. Sgt Paris at the wheel and Sgt Free with his rifle ready. We drove past Butmir downhill along a broad beautiful mountain and river gorge. We last drove this route with “Red” on 06 Sep 97. We passed in and out of the IEBL and through the Gorazde corridor. Noted several TD type tanks in the RS at Brod. Crossed a bailey bridge laid alongside the large concrete ruins of the bridge at Brod. The RS town of Trnovo seemed to be very badly shot up, but there were a large number of homes partly repaired and smoke coming out of their chimneys. We drove up through thick fog high into the mountains. Crossed a bailey bridge from route Tuna to route Viper heading south. Met a “professional” VRS (Serb) soldier while changing drivers. A few patches of sun. Near miss with a bulldozer blade on a flatbed passing too close on a narrow road along the Drina river. Snow covered mountains on the route near Suhe. Passed by a very unusual memorial at Tjentiste. It looked like some kind of ski lift or resort. Tjentiste was the site of a major Second World War battle in which Tito was wounded. 15,000 partisans including 4,000 wounded broke out of an encirclement by 117,000 enemy forces. The monument is a symbolic representation of the breakthrough.
Beautiful drive high up in the mountains. The sun came out at Cemerno, lighting up the snow and fog-capped peaks. Cold but clear beautiful blue sky opened up over us as we crossed over the top of the mountains at Vrba. We zigzagged past the Motel Klinje and drove down to Gacko with its large conical coal-fired power plant. Spanish SFOR camp on the hill above the eastern edge of Gacko. Low flood plain, we are now off the mountain roads in very bright sunshine. Cattle, pigs and sheep being dressed. Spanish APCs observing an RS political rally in Avtovac. Straight route (very unusual in Bosnia). Low scrub and rock, then a moderately winding route to the large town of Biljeca. A fair sized VRS army base with several museum pieces on display, including an RPU-32, an old M-46 gun and a BTR-50 CP intact in the camp on the south edge of the town. There is a large old stone fort overlooking the reservoir on the south side of the town. There were a lot of low stonewalls and old stone buildings partially submerged in the reservoir. We drove into the beautiful town of Trebinje with a very fine old multiple-arched stone bridge. Stopped for lunch at the “No. 1 Restoran.” Sgt Paris ordered the Olympic hamburger, and received a 10” round 1” thick cooked hamburger patty. Had to take a photograph of him with the lady who served it.
Maj Hal Skaarup and Sgt Chris Free beside the wreckage of a BVP-M-80 APC north of Dubrovnik.
On through the IEBL, stopping to take pictures of a badly shot-up BVP-M-80 APC. Rough road. An Italian Carabinieri vehicle escorted us through and guided us down to the road to Dubrovnik high above the Adriatic coast. The mountain ride was incredible, and the view of the Adriatic sea jumped at us as we crested the last mountain. What a change from wet and snowy Sarajevo. We headed north along the coast to Dubrovnik, checked out a few of the hotels then checked into the Hotel Argentina (DM 127 each), about the only one open. Each of us had a fine view of the sea. In the evening we went for a walk around the old walled city with its stonewalls dating from the 8th to the 16th centuries. Walked the wide pedestrian mall inside the walls on stones worn smooth by uncountable numbers of visitors. We walked up the narrow side streets and stopped into one of the cafés for ice cream and cappuccino. In the evening we had a really nice dinner in the hotel. 20 stations on the TV, luxury, but too tired too stay up late. (The route we took from Sarajevo to Broad to Trebinje to Dubrovnik was 286 km. Our return route via Mostar would be 274 km).
16 Nov 97 Sunday. Up early for breakfast in the hotel. I took photos and video from the hotel roof of the sunrise on the water. I then walked down to the beach and along the inside walls of most of the old part of Dubrovnik. Beautiful clear morning sunshine. We got on the road heading back along the northwest coast about 0930 hours. Very clear light sky and blue-green Aegean sea off to our left. The mountains rise almost straight up from the sea, so the rocky sides force the road to hug close to the water. Mostly scrub brush along the route to Zaton, Slano, route Cynthia, view of the island of Sipan. Fortress at M. Ston, a citadel with a single crenulated wall rising up the mountain. Fine view of the coastal flood plain towards the port of Ploce.
North on Pacman route, stopping for coffee at the German restaurant in Metlevic on the Croat side of the border. On into MND SE HQ and lunch in Mostar. Spoke with Capt Andrew Morrison, (a Canadian Int officer with the AMIB det in Medugorje and LCdr LaViolette, (Canadian PAFFO in Mostar). Called the CANIC. It seems that the Serbs had been acting up and tried to take over the Mount Trebevic radio tower (1629m high). Butmir is also being blockaded (it figures, leave for one day and the s--- hits the fan). It was still light as we drove up Pacman and back to Sarajevo. Two Ukrainian BTR-70s and one BTR-60 PB at the bridge below Jablanica. Old ARBiH tank destroyer in the compound at Bradina high in the mountains. We followed a truck with several ARBiH soldiers sitting in the back looking at us in a fine sunset. We were back in Ilidza by 1600 hours having covered 560 km in the round trip.
25 Nov 97 Interview with BGen Isler, CJ2 SFOR. He gave me a 28-minute lecture out of a 30 minute scheduled interview about his concerns over the “national agendas” of the various NICs. I asked him what the questions he wanted answers to were, and he handed me a sheaf of them. Realizing the difficulties associated with them to date, I then asked whether I could discuss the questions with my colleagues in the other NICs. He requested that I keep a “close hold “on to the questions for three days until the Commander of SFOR approved their release. I gave him my word that I would. I later learned that the questions had not even been passed to the USNIC, and that it is likely that he gave me his only immediate copy during the heat of the discussion. Three days later, I again approached him about the subject, and he extended his request to “keep them on close hold.” I was either being tested, or included in a much larger picture, but duly kept the questions locked down within the CANIC. Eventually, some very severe controversies would fall out of the nature of the information being sought. A change in direction at Madeleine Albright’s level, led to a resumption of discussions and even more interesting outcomes. One of the few really bad experiences I had here (I responded to a request for an intelligence assessment by an American friend and Int Major/colleague that nearly got him fired, because the data did not jive with the US assessment) resulted in one of the most positive experiences (Albright brought a hammer down on the US Int community and the resulting scramble for answers led to a major reinstatement and vindication of the US Int Major. If I had been a smoker, I would have lit the man a Cuban cigar).
(US GOV Photo)
Former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Went for a bike ride with USNIC rep to the park. Packed my barrack box and parachute kit bag and sent them back to Canada with the unaccompanied baggage DP. In the evening the CANIC crew was invited to the SWENIC apartment in Sarajevo for a fine meal. I presented Kjell with a CANIC-SWENIC plaque, and he presented me with a handmade hunting knife. The handle was carved from several pieces of bird’s eye maple and the sheath was decorated with hand-tooled leather, a “working man’s knife” he explained, not just a decoration.
29 Nov 97 All NIC departure party in the Terme Hotel, with lots of Spanish Sangria, farewell speeches etc.
30 Nov 97 Sunday. Had an interesting chat with Gen Eric Shinseki just after the morning church service at Echos. It was really interesting to hear some of my own words being said back to me, particularly concerning the control the criminal element exerts over the Bosnian leadership. One of the participants from the USNIC in our CANIC brainstorming sessions has to be briefing him personally. It turned out that my biking mate was briefing the Commander on a daily basis. Interesting.
02 Dec 97 Tuesday. Down to chat with Ambassador Marcoux in the morning. I took a group of Canadian JTF personnel on a tour through the damaged areas of Sarajevo. Down to the gold market centre and a tour of the Turkish BTR-80.
04 Dec 97 WO MacKenzie and PO Gibeault left today for Canada. Farewell with a plaque to the newly formed SCANIC from the CANIC.
07 Dec 97 Sunday. Taking my end tour leave break. Sgt Paris dropped me off at the Sarajevo civilian airport, where I boarded a Ukrainian made Air Bosna Yak 42 jet to Istanbul. 2153 Yak 42 flight from Sarajevo to Istanbul. I booked a room at the Grand Emin Hotel near Akaray ($80 US plus a 10% service charge per night). A courtesy bus took me from the airport past a Turkish Air Force F-100 Super Sabre and an F-84 Thunderjet, gate guardians mounted on pylons near the airfield. I checked in during a downpour of rain that never seemed to let up during most of my tour. I walked up the Divan Volu (main street) and east to the markets. Went into the Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque), the most impressive of the 2,500 mosques in Istanbul. It was very beautiful viewed from the outside in the dark with its reflection cast on the wet stones. It was even more impressive on the inside, where the blue ceiling tiles, which give the mosque its name, were very well lit. Very quiet and reverent.
I walked around the ancient hippodrome (former racing circuit) and viewed an Egyptian obelisk, which had been carved in 1450 BC and brought to Constantinople in 330 AD. (“Old” begins after that here). Nearby is the stump of a broken iron column brought here from Delphi in 490 BC and another stone column dating from the 5th century AD. The Egyptian obelisk was in better shape than its newer companions. Viewed a very tall stone column dating from the 5th century era of Justinian on the main street. Very impressive is the 4th century gigantic domed church of Hagia Sophia, turned into a mosque by the Ottoman’s after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, and later into a museum by Ataturk. I bought a six-piece gold puzzle ring and a zircon and gold 18k ring for Faye. I inquired about diamonds after having compared a “lot” of prices, and arranged to see a diamond dealer later.
Toured an outdoor market (open on Sunday only) and bought the first of several silk scarves. Cold and wet, I also bought a black toque to wear out there in the rain. Discovered the bookshops and then, bingo! One of the shops had a collection of Russian medals and badges on display and for sale. They were being brought in from Chechnya. I bought several serious medals, paying for them in DM what I would pay in $ in Canada. Had some Turkish delight, baklava, donairs and shiskebab. Lots of walking, then back to the hotel and crashed.
08 Dec 97 Monday. Rain. Up early and into the covered indoor market called the Kapilicarsi. Bought my scarf, plus two more silk scarves, plus a fancy vest. Walked through the University of Istanbul and in several zigzag directions. Took a tram (streetcar) to the main bus station down by the harbour on the Golden Horn shore. Back up the hill to explore the Topkapi palace and its incredible museums. Viewed two of Mohammed’s swords and a letter he wrote, as well as weapons used by the various Sultan’s, gold, jewellery, thrones, diamonds, emeralds, armour, furniture and ceramics and more wealth than one can imagine under one roof. Long walk through the exhibits, did not leave enough time to explore the chain mail and ancient armour exhibit as I would have liked. Back to the ring dealer. He took me on a long zigzag through the side streets to a family dealer in a serious back-room site. I looked at quite a few diamond rings that were way out of my range, but he stopped, drew a special tray out of the safe and picked out a single diamond solitaire and said “I believe this is what you are looking for.” It was. I had to use my Master Card at a bank that charged 4% for the transaction etc. Back to the Kapilicarsi where we exchanged the bank note and I collected the ring with its box. Feeling elated and disjointed, I said goodbye and began to tour some more of the 4,000 shops in the covered market, 56 rows and isles in the Kapilicarsi. I bought a wood inlaid Backgammon Chess Board to go with my chess set from Cyprus (DM 80) Had a kebab supper. Went to see the movie Peacekeeper, about a bitter Serb from Sarajevo who brings a nuclear bomb from Russia to New York. Still raining. Back through the shops and side streets to the hotel.
09 Dec 97 Tuesday. Walked due southwest to Cerrah Pasa and down to the southwest corner of the city to tour the original Golden Gate entrance and the fortress of seven towers. Collected a shoeshine en route. Explored the walls, and the grounds. Stopped to stroke the guard’s dog. He was friendly and spoke a bit of German. The guardian took me into the prison section to show me the execution board shot through with arrow holes. I walked around the castle grounds and then went on foot for about 3-½ km along the outer walls of the original defences of Constantinople as far as the Topkapi gate. Some parts of the walls have extensive damage due to earthquakes, many parts are fully restored. I walked through the Topkapi gate (where the Turks broke into the city in 1453) and took a tram back to the Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque). Walked past the obelisks and the ancient monuments of the hippodrome again.
Walked across the grounds of the Blue Mosque and over to explore the interior of the Hagia Sophia. Much of it is undergoing repairs, renovation or reconstruction. Very old, very cool inside, the huge dome is extremely impressive when you realize it was built more than 1,600 years ago. It stood as a church for 1,000 years and then as a mosque for 500, and is now a museum. Had pie in a nice café nearby and chatted with Warren and Gail, two Australians who had just returned from a tour of the battlefield at Gallipoli. Warren was a retired army major and had served in Viet Nam. I bought a large coffee table book on Turkey at the main book market near the Kapilicarsi. Walked through the Ukrainian-Russian market area of Istanbul. Still wet. Went to the movie My Best Friends Wedding, very funny.
10 Dec 97 Wednesday. Took a taxi to the Turkish military museum in Nistanasi. Huge old cannon on display that fired a one metre high stone ball. Canadian made CF-104 Starfighter (serial 1081, TUAF #8-733) on display in the outdoor court. Observed the Turkish army band practicing its peculiar march (three steps then swing to the right, three steps then swing to the left). The museum has an incredible collection of swords, chain mail, modern weapons, flags, medals, tents, armour, cannons, machine-guns, souvenirs of Ataturk and more. I spent five hours in the museum and didn’t see all of it. Huge pieces of iron chain that had guarded the Golden Horn in 1453 were on display. This barrier had forced the Turks to drag their ships overland to get around them. Walked east and then south to the Dolmabahce Palace, then northeast along the shore. Then walked southwest about four km to the Karakoy fish market.
Up the hill to tour the Galeta tower, built in the 5th century. Out on the balcony on top to view the city as the sun was setting. Met six Japanese tourists and ended up guiding them down the hill and across the Galeta bridge to the train station at Sirkeci. Up to Justinian’s Column, then I zigzagged through the Russian sector and the leather markets. Stopped for some Turkish delight and then wound my way back to the hotel. (Byzas, 657 BC; Septimus Servus up to 196 AD, Constantine from 324 to the founding of the city in 330 AD, the 4th Crusade between Latins and Venetians 1204-1261; Ottoman Turks in 1453).
11 Dec 97 Thursday. Up early to walk the main street Divan Yolu to the Sultanahmet. Viewed the Milion (1st marker for all miles in Turkey). Went down into the ancient cisterns with 300 plus fifth century columns. There were fish in the water. Very wet and ancient feeling to the place. Spoke with an American writer. I walked over to the Topkapi palace again in thick fog, then went down to tour the archaeological museum. The Alexander Sarcophagus was very detailed and impressive. Viewed the serpent’s head from the iron column standing in the hippodrome. The museum has an excellent display of the history of the city. The SUN came out at last! Down to the boat station at Eminonu. Took the ferry to Uskudar and then walked on the southern shore down to view the island tower of Salasak. Back on the ferry in the sunshine. Walked through the Kapilicarsi once more, then took an airport courtesy vehicle. It took nearly two hours in heavy traffic and I therefore just barely made it onto my flight.
11 Dec 97 2154 Yak 42 flight from Istanbul to Sarajevo. I walked over to the French guardhouse and called the CANIC guys to pick me up. Back to the job.
12 Dec 97 Friday. Morning meeting with Ambassador Marcoux. Danish “luncheon” for all the NICs and CJ2. It started at 1300 hours and went on past 1930 hours. Llewellyn our Welshman from the UKNIC, pushed it right into the ground.
15 Dec 97 Monday. Christmas tree in the Ilidza courtyard lit in the evening with a service led by the US Chaplains. Christmas carols and a good get-together for SFOR staffs.
16 Dec 97 Tuesday. Capt Bob Martyn and Sgt Ollia Kitash from the LdSH BG came down for a visit from Coralici. Took them for a tour of the battle damage in Sarajevo under a heavy snowfall. Up to the Turkish fort and out to Butmir. BBQ at the CANIC in the evening.
17 Dec 97 Wednesday. The Coralici crew headed back to their home base.
18 Dec 97 Thursday. Christmas carols in the Croatian cathedral with the British forces. Convoy from Ilidza down and back.
20 Dec 97 Saturday. Very mild, +14°C, a faun wind moving about 40 mph and very wet. Mission to Bugojno. Checked out two Galeb aircraft and an old Dragonfly helicopter (museum pieces) at the ARBiH Camp at Pazaroc. On to Tarcin. Double rainbow, alternating wet and then turning to heavy rain for the rest of the day. SFOR BRDM-2 (Ukrainian) guarding the tunnel exit. Two TD tanks at Bradina, plus a homemade APC and several small AT guns. Federation troops on parade. Very wet. Drove over to view a wrecked Second World War memorial bridge. Small train parked nearby. It is one of Tito’s memorials to a successful partisan breakout at Jablanica. Opal route northwest. We drove by a big dam on the Rama River just six km west of Jablanica. Rain and fog all the way up into the mountains. Through Gracac and up to the Croat town of Prozor. Brief stop for lunch at the King’s Royal Border Regiment Camp (MND SW) in Gorni Vakuf. Heavy battle damage throughout the area. On to Bugojno and the munitions factory being targeted. 162 km each way. Poured rain all the way down the mountain. Back in Sarajevo by 1700 hours. 1800 BBQ at the USNIC. Group TV watch.
24 Dec 97 Wednesday. Nonig honeh gowit (Irish Merry Christmas). Bike ride to the park, mild, +8°C, no snow. Made cookies for the UKNIC from oats that they had soaked in whisky for three days. They smelled terrible, but the Brits ate them. PM in the UKNIC, we brought along some Canadian moosemilk. At 23:30 hours the SFOR group gathered all around the giant Christmas tree for a Christmas eve carol service. We sang carols in English, French, German, Spanish and Swedish. I somehow wound up being shanghaied to sing carols for the BBC (in Swedish and Russian). Wound up on camera on the BBC world news service (had my Brit camouflage jacket on, hopefully I wasn’t recognised anywhere else). I had consumed some Danish gluckwein and the group of us were all acting silly. Not drunk, but in a very up and good feeling mood. The Europeans celebrate Christmas eve the way we celebrate it in the morning. The midnight service lasted until 01:15 hours. Long chat with Sean and Faye. The boys decided not to open their presents until I get home.
25 Dec 97 Thursday. Christmas morning, very mild, no snow. Slept in until 08:30. My Irish roommate had an adventure at the gate (he missed the 11 PM curfew). Last full day in Sarajevo. Went for a bike ride out to the park, generally relaxed. Lots of food, lobster, plum pudding. Heavy fog. Quiet out on Apache helipad. Walked around the compound saying hello to everyone (not in the mood to say goodbye yet). Packing and then re-packing, walking. NIC village “family” (big and little brothers USNIC rep visiting the CANIC for a cup of “family”) etc.
General Roderick J. Isler is a native of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and is the son of a career Army family having moved all over the world from one Army post to another. Rod later was drafted in the Army during the Vietnam conflict and , attended Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning, Georgia. General Isler was commissioned in Military Intelligence and served his country in various Command and Intelligence positions for the next 33 years. During his distinguished Military career, Rod served in several key Strategic Intelligence positions including the Senior Intelligence officer in Korea and later in Bosina-Hertzegovina. He also served at the National Security Agency and later at the Central Intelligence Agency as the Director for Military Support. General Isler was then moved to Defense Intelligence Agency where he served as the Director of Operations until his retirement in 2002. Following his distinguished Military career, General Isler joined General Dynamics and ultimately became Vice President and General Manager of the Integrated Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Systems Division.
26 Dec 97 Friday. Last morning in Sarajevo. My first stop was to see CJ2 BGen Roderick J. Isler (later MGen). He surprised me by presenting me with an NSA bronze coin inscribed “For Superior Performance.” Usually only senior staff see them.
Most of my colleagues in the other NICs had already rotated out. I dropped in to say farewell to the USNIC, DANIC, GENIC, (no one in at the NLNIC), the FRNIC, the Hellenic NIC (also away), the ITNIC, the SWENIC (they presented me with a small wooden horse), the SPNIC and the TUNIC. The CO of the TUNIC paraded all six personnel, Col, LCol, 2 Capts, 2 Sgts, to say goodbye. I gave them the book on New Brunswick to keep as a souvenir, then visited the UKNIC and finally stopped at the CANIC. Capt Haywood had organized the crew and turned them out on parade, a very decent and muchly appreciated gesture. Thank yous and more goodbyes. They are an excellent crew to work with. Maj Rick Mader will have a good team waiting for him. We got on the road with Sgt Paris driving and accompanied by Maj Louis Garneau (PAFFO) en route to Zagreb at 09:30 hours. The fog began to lift. The huge blown down bridge at Visoko is almost restored.
Passed through a Turkish checkpoint guarded by modified M-113 and BTR-80 APCs near Zenica. Zenica is a large industrial town with lots of high-rise apartments. Large Turk camp on the north edge of the town with lots of M-60 tanks. Noticed a small castle near the entrance to two long tunnels 6 km north of Zenica. Zepce is another mining town, and then on to Maglaj.
Stopped to photograph and videotape the two destroyed T-55 tanks and the wrecked BVP-M-60 APC just before Doboj in the IEBL/ZOS. Visited the Danish contingent at Camp Valhalla. Finland Battalion is also located nearby. Very, very, very long route lined with wrecked and destroyed homes, some battle damaged, most ethnically cleansed, all the way north to Bosanski Brod. Passed by a horse-drawn funeral cortege en route. The destruction just got worse, very depressing. Crossed a checkpoint manned by Americans on the river to Slovanski Broad on the Croatian side. Old Vauban style stone star fortress on their side of the river.
On the highway 180 to Zagreb, what a change. Back in central Europe. We zigzagged through the 900 year old but very modern city of Zagreb to the Holiday Hotel. Had to stay in an executive suite with living room and two bathrooms (oh dear). Great meal in the hotel. The last few days of late nights caught up with us and I zonked out. I got up to write Christmas card thank you notes. Too many bullets flying around, so I slept on the floor. A lot of gunfire outside. Repacked some of my kit.
27 Dec 97 Saturday. Breakfast in the Hotel, downtown in the Mitsubishi. Rain. Sightseeing, some shopping, cappuccino and plum cake. Back out to the airport to pick up Maj Rick Mader, my replacement, at 15:30 hours. Took him to Pleso to clear in. Supper in the hotel, lots of chat and hand-over notes. Still raining. More gunfire all night.
28 Dec 97 Sunday. 0900 start from Zagreb with Mario, Louis and Rick en route to VK. In through Karlovac via autobahn, south to VK in BiH. First view of the damage for Rick. Tour of Velika Kladusa camp. Met with Col Capstick and he conducted the hand-over, Board of Inquiry (BOI) and presided over our official change of command. Both of us presented with handover scrolls from CC SFOR. Capt Bob Martyn and WO Campbell gave Rick a briefing from the LdSH BG. At 15:30 hours we headed back to Zagreb. Supper in the hotel, final repacking. More gunfire, slept on the floor again.
29 Dec 97 Monday. Over to Pleso to turn in the last of my kit. I handed over my pistol to Rick (all rounds still intact). I handed in my flak jacket, and gave my helmet to Louis, and said good luck and goodbye. On the flight and end of my SFOR tour. 2155 B-737 flight from Zagreb to Frankfurt. While waiting at the airport in Frankfurt I heard my name called over the intercom. My Economy seat had been upgraded to Business class for my flight to Boston. Still being watched over, big-time, as always. Nothing is by accident. Grant I be worthy. 2156 Airbus 360-300 from Frankfurt to Boston. Overnight in Boston. I took a bus and subway train downtown to the Tremont Hotel. Went to see Cats at a theatre near the hotel, but crashed halfway through.
30 Dec 97 Tuesday. Up early, subway to the airport. 2157 Dash-7 from Boston to Saint John. Long weather delay held us up, walked over to the Flying Club and back.
30 Dec 97 Jetstream 41 from Saint John to Fredericton. Faye, Jonathan and Sean were there to meet me, awfully glad to see them. (Had to give Faye her diamond just to make sure she had it on her hand before I took another step). Home, and Christmas!
31 Dec 97 Wednesday. First full day in Canada, last day of 1997. Great to be home
NATO Medal for Former Yugoslavia (NATO-FY).
1997, Safe Roads,Bosnia-Herzegovina Observations
The collection of information in the field of duty is important because many lives depend on it, more so now than at any time since the Second World War. A great leader once said, “I would trade all the sophisticated Intelligence collection apparatus available for one good spy in the enemy camp.” Machines can’t read minds and get into the psyche of the person or group that potentially poses a threat. More importantly, the threat to one man or group of people may not be of concern to another. The best way to illustrate this is by describing an experience that members of our Canadian National Intelligence Centre (CANIC) team had in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1997.
One of the constant factors about being on duty in a country that has been at war is the concern with the safety of the routes one must take to get from point A to point B. In order to determine which roads were safe and which were not, we did our best to find and make use of at least five reliable sources of information to confirm the best route to take. The “HUMINT“ method of Intelligence gathering often involved sitting down with people from different countries in a one on one basis and having a cup of coffee with them.
On more than one occasion we would be asked if a particular route was safe, most often by someone who was about to take a convoy from point A to B along that route. We would brief the people requesting the information that we would do what we could to find out, and in this particular instance, I began the process by visiting the commander of a middle-eastern contingent, whose area the route went through. The Muslim commander insisted on having a cup of coffee (you may know the kind I mean; it seems like it consists of 50% thick sludge, and 50% raw caffeine, and with one sip your eyeballs are “THIS BIG” for three days). When I asked the question about whether the route being considered was safe, he responded by asking "what has the weather been like?" My first impression was that he was trying to change the subject, but after a chat about family, our tour of duty in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the situation in general, we eventually came back to discussing the subject of the safety of specific routes.
He explained that the types of mines that were in use by the local belligerents weren’t usually laid under the pavement of the roadways because it was impractical to do so. However, because the most common type of landmine in use in the area was an anti-personnel mine about the size of a hockey puck. It could easily be planted in the dirt banks on the high side of the road. When it rains heavily, as it does in the mountains at the time of year we were concerned with, the mud washes down onto the road, bringing the mines along with it. This meant that if the weather had been bad for the past few days, the road was unlikely to be safe. Even if you weren’t on a foot patrol, hitting one of these anti-personnel mines with a soft-skinned vehicle could cause you to blow off a tire on a particularly nasty stretch of steep mountain road, and of course, the mine would be sited to ensure there was a long drop off on the opposite side of the road. If the weather had been good for more than a week and others had travelled on the road in the same period, the odds were relatively good that the road was comparatively safe to take. On the other hand, the Muslim commander did point out and recommend the use of a longer although somewhat more difficult route that was used by his Troops to travel from point A to B all the time.
I then visited with the commander of a European Unit to get his opinion of the route in question. He was of an Orthodox religion, and they don’t often share their views with other contingents, let alone the Muslims. However, with the ever present (one might say absolutely necessary) cup of very strong coffee in hand, he listened to my question attentively, and then asked me if there were any Dutchmen in the convoy. I responded yes, the ambulance crew was from the Netherlands. He suggested that this might pose a problem, because a number of Bosnia-Herzegovina “war heroes” had been arrested and taken from a particular village along the route. These individuals had then been sent to “The Hague” in the Netherlands and were presently standing trial as a “war criminals.” If the local villagers happened to see the Dutch vehicle, they would stone the convoy at the very least. He recommended a detour through another specific route, which interestingly enough was the same route the Muslim commander recommended.
I then visited the commander of a North European nation and asked him the same question about the safety of the route in question. He in turn warned me that one of the vehicles from the country mounting the convoy had accidentally backed over a small car in another village near the route chosen a few weeks ago, and in the process killed a woman and her child. He strongly recommended that another route be taken if they didn’t want to have a hostile encounter.
Word passes quickly on the military “grapevine,” so most of us were well aware of incidents involving Troops from another country we worked with that were new to the business of keeping the peace in Europe,(and we were part of a group of 39 different nations in the Peace Stabilization Force known as SFOR). One or two of these “newbies” had severely strained their relations with the local people along the route by dumping garbage anywhere they felt like it, which is not a common thing in Europe. I would have recommended against anyone taking a convoy through a route where the locals were inordinately hostile to members of contingents who had made themselves unwelcome in their area. No one needs unnecessary grief. There were also other so-called allies whose off-duty activities in the black-market made them unwelcome in certain sectors. One Eastern-based SFOR group had a few representatives who took up the practice of charging “tolls” to local vehicles transiting past their camp. Members of this particularly enterprising group took to shooting at passing local vehicles when they didn’t pay the tolls. This is not the kind of activity that will endear you to the people you are supposedly there to protect.
This still left a good number of other nations to consult, and as mentioned, I usually liked to check in with five or more for good measure. The lead liaison officer of another contingent that I visited to gather information about the route, indicated to me in no uncertain terms after I asked the question, that, “of course the route was safe.” I asked him how he knew this to be so, in light of the information I received from other solid sources that indicated otherwise, and his response was, “because our state department says so.” I did not find that kind of qualification to be very reassuring, particularly when it was highly likely that I might have to make use of the route myself. Based on the simple interactive discussions with the representatives of the other nations I’ve just described, I would have to get down to “brass tacks” and ask key questions, such as: “Would you want to travel up an uncertain route just on the say so of any one particular country, particularly if they do not have “eyes on the ground?” For that matter, do you specifically distrust the word of colleagues and observers who seem to know more about the route than you do?” I think not.
Eventually, I connected with a group of like-minded people from many of the 39 different countries involved in the mission, not necessarily the same ones each time because people, contingents and routes change. I would then compile a list of the routes that were assessed as safe to take, and we would advise allied contingents whose representatives would in turn advise their convoy commanders accordingly. Quite often the safety of a number of these routes was not in accord or agreement with the assessments provided by state departments of other nations. However, our Intelligence Section had a more than reasonable degree of certainty as to where it was safe to drive and where it was not. It was a formula that worked well for us, and I felt that it might have applications elsewhere.
The bottom line about information gathering is, if it involves the safety of my life and yours, I want to know for sure that any route we may have to travel on is safe, before we let a convoy go anywhere over there, wherever “over there” may be. That principle has to be applied to any of the numerous deployment sites such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Rwanda, the Golan Heights, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other areas our government is arranging to send us. As you can see, information gathering from as many sources as possible is worth its weight in lives. All-source Intelligence specifically includes the “HUMINT“ factor. Radar and Satellite imaging in conjunction with electronic and communications Intelligence are only a few of the current examples of very necessary tools in our information-gathering toolbox. It is, however, equally necessary to be speaking with the people on the ground in the location of interest, and specifically with someone who has been there and knows what he is talking about, before assuming the risk of sending someone along a route he might not come back from. In the end, if you can’t get the information with technology, you may have to go and look for yourself. A very old military rule is that time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted – even if it is rarely recovered.
The essential ingredient to the business of information gathering in the kind of environment one finds oneself in while on duty in places like Bosnia-Herzegovina is the need for continuous human interaction with all of our allies. A great deal of patience and the ability to engage people in a meaningful dialogue with practical social skills are necessary elements in the business of information gathering. The ability to work with the disgruntled is necessary when dealing with more than just the obvious belligerents. One learns quickly that there are representatives from more than a few theoretically “friendly” countries, who seem to go out of their way to make themselves unwelcome with an attitude of “We are here to sort you out and you had better be grateful or else.” By example, I have seen representatives from Country A treat everyone like dirt and so no one wants to deal with him or her. The representative from Country B doesn’t seem to speak English in a form that anyone else can understand (no names, no pack drill here please). The crew from Country C seems to take a “religious” view on every task it is assigned. Country D has to put a political spin on things. Country E is only there for the money, black-market and otherwise. Some countries actually want to make a difference – and in that, we are almost unique.
The only way to make that difference is to educate the people who send us on these missions about what the environment is like in the theatre we are going into, and what is reasonably possible to accomplish once we get there. It is very important to know what the exit strategy is before we go in. The Intelligence team has to be in the loop from the commander’s direction downwards, on what constitutes the “mission accomplished” End State. Soldiers understand why you need information and what to do with it on the ground (and the more you have in advance, the better), but one is left with the impression that sometimes, the politicians that put us in these places are slightly “less well-informed,” on the risks we are exposed to, to put it in politically correct terminology.
Our job is to gather information about those who pose the threat to the Troops on the ground and get it to them in a timely and useful manner. Those we work for need to instruct our political masters on the important (and potentially life-threatening) aspects that they need to know about the situation they intend to put us in and why it is the way it is. As we begin to deploy on even more dangerous missions to unstable and highly volatile nations, (within the classic “three-block war” scenario now part of Army doctrine), we need to be better prepared with people who know how to gather the information and get it to those who need to make the best use of it. It has never been more important.
There is a great need in our service for people with language training, overseas experience, and human interactive social skills who can be employed to conduct long-term interactive liaison and intercourse with target nations. A number of our members have excellent skills, such as having an Interrogation course qualification. Attendance on Kinesiology courses can be useful as well (this is the business of studying a person’s face and body language to read whether or not they are telling the truth).
Traditional Intelligence briefing and debriefing of patrols is still necessary. Making direct personal contact with our Intelligence counterparts in theatre on a continuous basis is absolutely necessary. It involves a degree of “showing the flag” but also lets others know we are there to get the job done and to make a difference, by building trust. Being inside the “grapevine” or Community information loop can also be useful in increasing one’s sense of well being and can reduce the chances of being on the receiving end of unwelcome surprises. These activities have always been a necessary part of our world, although they are not always applied universally across the board. The best preparation for conducting operations involving information gathering in the field is good solid basic Army training. The most important ingredient for success is the use of common sense based on practical experience, something our Intelligence personnel have bags and bags of, as I have been privileged to observe in the field.
The bottom line is this: Don’t accept everything you hear as being absolutely true, make use of all sources, be discerning, and most importantly think for yourself. If you are not going to do that, then stay out of it. Sometimes when things are at their darkest, you have to be the light, and that is essentially what this report is about – the right people being in the right place at the right time, so that the rest of us can sleep soundly at night. E Tenebris Lux.
Major(Retired) Harold A. Skaarup