|SFOR, Bosnia-Herzegovina, CO CANIC, 1997
SFOR, CANIC, Sarajevo,
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.
Data current to 7 July 2020.
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
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.
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) commanded Sector Sarajevo 1992.
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.
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 Bosniacs 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 Bosniacs “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 95 by the 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 Bosnia-Herzegovina was back on. I collected 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 the author would later cross paths again when he was Brigade Commander, KMNB, ISAF in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2003-2004.
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 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, then on to Frankfurt, Munich, and Zagreb, Croatia. I checked in with the Canadian administrative centre at Pleso near Zagreb airfield, and spent the night in the Holiday Hotel in Zagreb - pretty much the standard in-clearance procedure for new arrivals in theatre.
The next morning I drew my Kevlar helmet, flak jacket, 9-mm pistol, two magazines with ten rounds each, a comfortable shoulder holster, and was issued a rules of engagement (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 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 helicopters after several years of teaching “Red Force” aircraft recognition to various Intelligence students. I also took particular note of several well-marked minefields, sealed off with barbed wire along the pathway to the flight line.
During the Hercules flight into Sarajevo, I spoke with Brigitte Duschene, a Canadian UNCF Area Information Officer for the FYR also based in Sarajevo. 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 believed otherwise.
On arrival at Sarajevo’s heavily damaged airport, I was met by Maj Robert J. McCutcheon and Sgt Michael C. “Skippy” Wagner from 3 Int Coy in Halifax. My kit was quickly loaded into the CANIC‘s 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 VAB and AMX-10RC armoured vehicles were stationed at close intervals nearby to provide security, along with a number of American HUMMVs and a variety of multi-national forces patrolling various key routes. Although Sarajevo sits at a high elevation in the mountains, the atmosphere was very humid. I was given a tour of the CANIC and met PO André Gibeault again, as well as my new 2IC, Capt David B. Owen, WO Byron K. Mackenzie and MCpl Ian Steel.
Canadian National Intelligence Centre (CANIC) crew, author as the CO, standing 2nd from the left, in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. All of us were serving, with the NATO-led Peace Stabilization Force (SFOR), in 1997.
A few Notes from my tour with SFOR:
Within the SFOR compound at Ilidza on the west end of the city, bunk space was extraordinarily difficult to come by. There was only enough space for a one-for-one exchange of personnel, four to a room. This meant all newcomers were bunked temporarily in the empty beds while other SFOR personnel were away or on leave. In the evening he met Turkish Officers who worked with the Turkish NIC (TUNIC). They had a very long chat about the Kurds, Bosniacs, Saladin, the Ottoman Empire and Turkey. The author spent his first night in Sarajevo in the top Bunk in a room in the Srbija Hotel, where four people were crammed in a room about the same bathroom-sized one the author had for just himself at the Ledra Palace in Cyprus.
There were 13 National Intelligence Centres (NICs) in the NIC village located inside a secure compound on the Western end of Sarajevo in the suburb of Ilidza. The Americans worked out of the USNIC in a central compound with lots of security guards and MPs (50-100 people). The British worked across from the Canadians in the UKNIC (11 pers), just behind the SFOR helicopter landing pad. The Turkish NIC (with 5 or 6 pers) was to the immediate right of the CANIC, not far from the Spanish NIC (six pers), the Swedish NIC (4 pers), the Italian NIC (up to 3 pers), 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 was also a group with the Deployed Security Force (DSF) made up with representatives from four nations (UK, US, FR & GE). The Swedes, Danes and Norwegians eventually combined to form a Scandinavian NIC called the “SCANIC” in January 1998. The Portuguese, Belgians and Romanians also began working with us to establish NICs within our intelligence community).
The author began making the rounds to meet the various organizations the CANIC worked in concert with to support the SFOR mission, beginning with MWO Penley with the Mapping Engineers. Rob and the author then drove down to the Holiday Inn which served as the press conference centre for most Public Affairs and media activities in Sarajevo), to meet with Ms Duschene. Brigitte had remained in the city throughout the fighting and carefully pointed out several battle positions and sniper sites she had seen in use during the war. The remains of war damage were evident everywhere in the city, with 20 and 30 story buildings burned out or partially gutted, although some of the lower stages were already 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 could be seen on most of the buildings in the city.
The Int Majors returned 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 the night before their assassination by Gavrilo Prinzip on 28 June 1914. The spot where Prinzip stood when he fired his “shot heard around the world,” had been marked with a plaque, but the markers in downtown Sarajevo were eradicated not long after the author’s arrival, because Prinzip had been a Serb. The citizens of Sarajevo, particularly the Bosniacs, were decidedly unhappy with the treatment and shelling meted out to them during the war by the Serbs. Helicopters constantly churned into the heliport alongside the CANIC with the first one the author observed being a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter peculiarly decked out with an arctic “zebra-stripe” winter camouflage pattern, since it had just returned from the Falkland Islands.
The author was introduced to Wendy Gilmore, from the Canadian Office of the High Representative (OHR). Wendy worked for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) in Sarajevo. The OHR is actually senior to SFOR. The three had an interesting chat about the politics and personalities in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The two Majors went for a brief walk downtown, with the “Newbie” feeling odd being armed at the time, although it was normal for all military personnel there. There were lots of young people strolling around the pedestrian mall area, and there were many shops open at ground level. The war damage however, was evident everywhere, in the form of multiple mortar splashes in the pavement underfoot to the scores of burnt out stories and wings of buildings. Some repairs were underway, but it appeared that it was going to be a long slow recovery process before the city was restored to its pre-Olympic stature.
The author met with Canadian Public Affairs Officer (PAFFO), LCdr Denise LaViolette, who had driven up from Mostar where she worked with the headquarters of the French-led Multinational Division South East (MND (SE)), and then visited the UK NIC to meet their CO, Maj Andrew Perry. They also spoke with the GCHQ LO, Dewi Blythe. Both men were two of the finest one could know in theatre. In the evening the author was invited to visit the TUNIC where Capt Fikret Guzeller introduced the author to the CO of the TUNIC, Col Celic, and his NIC staff.
The HQ staff and senior NIC personnel attended a video tele-conference (VTC) each day at 0800 hrs. These conferences were chaired by a British officer, BGen Simon Munro (who had attended Toronto Staff College), and were a regular feature of the CANIC daily routine. The conference was primarily for the commanders of the three MNDs (N, SW & SE) with SFOR in Bosnia-Herzegovina. This was followed by several briefings covering the American-led Train and Equip (T & E) program (which a number of SFOR participants had some serious heartache with), which was also held in the Srbija Hotel. The author met US LCol Washington (J3 Coord), and later met with the CANUKUS Intelligence Community at the UKNIC. These became the most interesting and valuable meetings of the week. The author also met a British Analyst, Maj Julian Moir, who was wearing a uniform he acquired on a previous overseas tour in Cambodia. Julian wore a black patch over one eye, to cover an injury he had sustained after accidentally striking unexploded ordnance (UXO) during a training exercise in Suffield, Alberta. Maj Andrew Perry, CO of the UKNIC, and Maj Rick Gallegos, DCO of the USNIC also participated in these meetings. LCol Robert M. Parsons (who worked for CJ2 and had been designated as the Canadian Army G2) and a crew of 20 Int people from all three countries sat in on the verbal free-for-all. There were excellent and productive round-table discussions on every subject of intelligence interest concerning Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The two Majors visited the Canadian Embassy, where they met with Ms Kati Csaba, Deputy to the Ambassador. Kati had been in the city of Kiev, in the Ukraine prior to being posted to Sarajevo, and spoke some Russian as well. She introduced us to Ambassador Serge Marcoux. The three engaged in a long and useful chat on the history of the Balkans and on possible future developments in the area. They returned to the CANIC for an evening farewell BBQ party at the UKNIC for all the departing NIC crews rotating out. Capt Eric E. Gjos, the Int officer in Coralici dropped in to visit with his crew.
The author signed off the Board of Inquiry for the CO’s handover, and on 27 June Rob and the author signed the CANIC Change-of-Command certificates for the handover, and then went through some more indoctrination. At 1030 hours, Capt Eric E. Gjos gave an Int briefing to the collected SFOR staffs. His presentation went over very well and he made the Canadian Int Branch look good.
The CANIC team attended meetings at the Canadian Camp in Velika Kladusa on a monthly basis. The route averaged several hundred kilometres, and to maximise the opportunity, we drove a different route each time. During each of the trips we took along our helmets, flak jackets, pistols, kit-bags and lots of water. At the end of June, Sgt Michael C. Wagner drove Rob and the author in the Mitsubishi over to the site of the former Olympic ice-skating stadium at Zetra to pick up LCol Robert M. Parsons. This is the same Olympic stadium where Canada’s Gaetan Boucher won two gold medals in 1984. The stadium looked like it was nearly ready to collapse, although it was probably a lot like the Aitken Centre in Fredericton before it was shelled. Although we assessed that it would likely have to be torn down and rebuilt because of the amount of damage it had sustained, it was eventually repaired and SFOR was required to “move out.” The US Embassy, which was nearby, was very heavily sandbagged and protected with armoured Bradleys. The group drove out of the city at a hair-raising pace on what turned out to be a very hot day.
They passed by a fair number of German LUCHs and French VAB APCs along the way. (Earlier, one of the LUCHs crews had accidentally electrically discharged five 20mm rounds from the Rarden cannon mounted on his LUCHs into the vehicle ahead, killing two of his German colleagues). They continued on South West, passing an old Roman bridge just outside the Ilidza defensive compound. It is not far from one of the 25 lodges (this one had been destroyed) that Tito used to maintain for himself and his party officials. The scenery is fantastic with beautiful tree-lined valleys, but far too many damaged and ethnically cleansed (EC) homes were in evidence everywhere. (The UN reports the destroyed houses number over two million in BiH alone).
The group drove past the garrison town of Bradina where the author observed a pair of Sherman tanks, some home-made APCs and several tubes of artillery (105mm and 120mm) parked out front. At Jablanica they drove by a Ukrainian Airborne unit equipped with BTR-70s, guarding a bailey type bridge. Signs indicated that the French Foreign Legion (FFL) built the bridge. They drove past some major battle damage near Potruci and on to the city of Mostar. It is very heavily damaged, but the saddest view was of the remains of the beautiful old bridge the city of Mostar is famous for (Most means bridge), which formerly spanned the Neretva (Ar) River. The Mostar Bridge was built in 1566 by the Turks, but was destroyed by a Croat tank in 1993. There is a rough suspension bridge hanging in its place, and SFOR engineers have constructed other bridges over the river to restore the flow of traffic.
The crew crossed through the Bosnia-Herzegovina-Croatian border checkpoint, where they were waved through without any formality due to the SFOR sign on the truck. They had to remove and stow their pistols as they are now out of their jurisdiction in Croatia. They drove north along the Adriatic coast to the touristic city of Split, and then began the uphill climb through mountain roads passing bare and ragged looking white rock which rose several thousand feet up from the coast. They dropped off LCol Robert M. Parsons at Trogir airport. They followed the coastal route to Sibenik, noting several radars and an old round tower (possibly Second World War era) and forts sitting high in the hills. They then turned inland to Benkovac, passing countless numbers of wrecked and unoccupied homes. As far as the eye could see, all electricity lines were down and power poles had been destroyed. There were many villages with 20 homes where the locals had blown up seven or eight of their ethnically incorrect neighbours. Continuing overland to Obrovac, the crew observed 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.
They skirted around a lake at Novigradska More, and then drove down a steep valley passing a strategically sited medieval castle ruin which had a long defensive wall running down to the river. Crossing the river, they followed seemingly endless hairpin switchbacks more than 5,000’ up over the mountains. They kept passing a great number of villages entirely abandoned. It is a grim sight when you come from the farm country the author calls home in New Brunswick and see the countless number of ancient farms not being tended, and no signs of life or livestock for very long distances. In over 100 kms along this route, there were only a few goats seen along the way. They drove down the other side of the mountain to Gracac, where there were many more damaged homes, although some seemed to be occupied. Half the village of Gracac seemed to be abandoned; the other half seemed to be barely functioning.
At Prijeboj they turned east and zig-zagged up the mountains to Bihac. They crossed the border at Petrovno-Selo, where the first visibly noticeable and instant change was the sight of well-cultivated, thoroughly well-cared for farms and fields bursting with ripe crops. It reminded the author of southern Germany in prime harvest season. There were new mosques and minarets everywhere. Every field seemed to be well tended and groomed, hay mows were stacked by hand, corn, wheat, wall-to-wall crops could be seen, and an enormous contrast of green compared to the route we had taken thus far. There was a very “middle-European” appearance to the place. At this point, however, the reality check set in, and all of us put our weapons back on.
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 the crew passed a local police checkpoint (likely unauthorized), and a man roasting what must have been a goat (the group at first thought it was a dog) on a spit.
Above Cazin they 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 near Coralici. They arrived at the Headquarters for the Canadian Contingent (CC) SFOR, a logistics camp at Velika Kladusa (VK), 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. The author met Col J.J. Selbie and his staff and then toured the excellent facilities they have set up in an old farm implement factory. Col Selbie gave Rob and the author CO’s rooms (a single CORIMEC trailer to ourselves). The author slept like a king.
Early the next morning, the author seized the opportunity to spend an hour inside one of the Mi-17 Hips chatting with the three-man crew of the Czech helicopter, followed by a 3½ hour staff meeting. Col Selbie presided over Rob’s and the author’s Change of Command of the CANIC. After supper it grew very hot and muggy. Rob and the author 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. They stopped to chat with a German speaking Bosnia-Herzegovina family on the way back, and learned that the family was afraid of what will happen when SFOR leaves.
The next day Rob was dropped off in Zagreb and the author and “Skippy” headed back to Sarajevo, driving along a long winding road along a green river valley, with lots of zig-zagging through the towns of Potok, Tounj, Josipdol, passing a lot of well-groomed farms. Josipdol was the first town they encountered with significant war damage that appeared to have involved an equal amount of ethnic cleansing. Seven homes were destroyed, 25 were still occupied. Along the coast they passed by an empty Croat Naval and Air Base with a destroyed Mi-8 Hip helicopter (Blue and White colours) occupying a deserted compound on the inland side.
They drove past more wrecked buildings just 2 km north of Krisac, and then on to Tribanj, right on the water, where they observed several homes that had been cleansed (dynamited) on the shore north and south of Paklenca. 8 or 9 homes had been destroyed in the village of Murvika, then a whole series of groups of homes and buildings were observed that had been demolished beyond salvage, with everything flattened. As they drove into Zadar, they 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 ethnic cleansing. Lights were blown out, and many buildings were 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 they 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. Strangely, there was no apparent damage in Sibenik.
It was dusk as they reached the border. They continued back up the Neretva River valley and were back into Ilidza just past the 11 PM curfew. The Norwegian guard gave them a bit of “stick,” but eased up when he recognised Sgt Michael C. Wagner. (“Skippy” must have been the best-known Canadian in Bosnia-Herzegovina, because of his friendly demeanour and the fact that he said hi and spoke to everybody).
On 3 July the CANIC crew participated in an interesting CANUKUS “Three-eyes” meeting. They sent off some useful data to the Yugoslavia Crisis Cell (YCC), later renamed the Bosnia-Herzegovina Intelligence Cell (BIRT), in Ottawa. The author met the CO of the GENIC and the new CO of the USNIC. Cdr Larry Ash during the USNIC change of command ceremony. The author also spoke with the Hellenic NIC (Greek) and FRNIC COs, and later met LCol Møller-Peterson, the Danish Ops O and members of the ITNIC and SPNIC. The CANIC staff visited LCol Kjell Eriksson, the CO of the Swedish NIC (SWENIC) and had a “two-eyes” meeting with his staff.
At 0800 on 10 July 1997, the morning video teleconference at SFOR HQ in Sarajevo was very calm. At 0900 hours the CANIC Int staff attended the weekly three-eyes meeting in the UKNIC. During the discussions, a CH-147 Chinook helicopter lifted off from the helipad beside them, and then a Sikorsky CH-53 Super Stallion lifted off behind it. These are all heavy lift helicopters, and it was very unusual for them to be on the pad at the same time. Moments later, Cdr Ash, the USNIC CO was pulled from the meeting. Shortly afterwards, Capt Eric E. Gjos called from the Canadian Battle Group in Coralici to tell us “heads up - something is in the wind.”
About 0900 hours the SAS/SFOR moved to arrest Simo Drljaca, as Bosnia-Herzegovina 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. There was of course, a lot of associated intelligence activity. (Drljaca’s son and brother-in-law were released the next day).
The author visited the Canadian Embassy to meet with Kati Csaba and Guy Archambault for an interesting discussion. OHR/DFAIT representative Wendy Gilmore called, and so did UN information officer Brigitte Duschene. The senior OHR representative Mr Carlos Westendorp arrived just as the author exited the Srbija/SFOR HQ. There were a lot of plain-clothes security personnel around, all wearing earphones and carrying heavy weapons. This was the largest turnout of interested participants the author had seen to date for the daily 17:30 hours 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).
On 8 July members of the CANIC crew headed off north to Doboj in heavy rain, intending to loop over to visit the US camp at Tuzla. They drove the SFOR routes Finch, Dove, Skoda and Lada, 79 km to Zenica were there was very heavy damage to the factories and train stations visible along the way, along with dozens of shattered villages north of Sarajevo. A beautiful river coursed along the route between very steep hill sides and heavily wooded valley walls and with the roads in fairly good shape. 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 by the locals during the Canadian occupation of the town in 1993. There is a bailey bridge over the river and a large detour around it, but the road is good beyond it for highway travel. A German LUCHs guarded the bridge crossing site.
Although Canada had occupied the town of Visoko during the war, there were no Canadians based there in 1997. The bulk of the 1,300 Canadian forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina were 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 sight here. There are so many uncharted minefields that livestock must be herded carefully to keep them from being blown to pieces. In the Bosnia-Herzegovina 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 roof over them, Bosnia-Herzegovina 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. You could quickly tell who the victims were and therefore who were the most likely perpetrators by the shape of the damaged and destroyed homes.
During the trip the crew noticed a Czech SFOR Mi-17 Hip flying low through the wet weather over the river valley beside them – quite a site when one remembers all those recognition lectures every Int person has had. The crew observed a lot of damage in the Croatian pocket at Maglaj, and clear evidence of heavy ethnic cleansing and shellfire damage on the south edge of the city as well. They passed by a number of SFOR groups of vehicles escorting ARBiH Troops through the area, as well as many more signs of ethnic cleansing. There was a large resort style hotel completely burned out sited on the north side of town. Dutch Troops were examining an ARBiH truck near Trgvina. Just south of Doboj they came upon two destroyed T-55 tanks and a wrecked BVP M-60 APC. The wrecked tanks and APCs are technically in no-man’s land, between the two factions.
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. There was a lot of shell damage apparent at Rasadnik. They passed by a Danish SFOR Camp just south of Doboj and another one run by Finland. The scenes of damage gradually disappeared as they crossed the river and headed east to Tuzla on a yellow SFOR route.
The crew pulled into the United Nations International Police Task Force (UNIPTF) HQ to meet RCMP Inspector Chris Bothe. He supervised 500 monitors in the Tuzla area, plus anther 259 in Brcko. His IPTF officers were from 28 different countries (although only a few of them served in SFOR). The CANIC staff had a good chat with Chris and he introduced them to his Russian deputies and some members of the force from Nepal. After a brief stop at the US Task Force Eagle base, they headed south, encountering Russians, Swedes, Turks, Norwegians, Brits and American SFOR Troops everywhere. Following Ostrich route they headed west to Zivinice, which had a very narrow and extremely winding route back, with major parts of it under construction. They continued on through a very narrow valley with steep sides and the road cut into the mountain walls and hard rock above the river. They continued passing a number of ethnically cleansed restaurants and homes high in the mountains.
From Kladanj, a lumber mill town, they continued back up more winding routes past some seriously damaged buildings, where everything seemed to have been demolished in small communities of a dozen or so homes. All of the single dwellings and restaurants every few km on the winding roads had been destroyed. The letters “SDA” were spray painted on many of the wrecked buildings. The crew estimated that 50% of the buildings they saw along this route had been destroyed as they neared the Stupcanica lumberyard. Heavier damage was sustained by the factories and apartments in Olivo.
Signs everywhere indicated that Brcko is “the key.” It is a small town on the Sava river of importance to all factions, and was the most contested site in Bosnia-Herzegovina up to that time. Whoever gets control of it has serious economic power, and all three sides want it, hence the continuing tension in the area. There were lots of large but totally devastated farms in view on the northern edge of Ivanica. GDS and SDA signs have been spray painted on the wrecked buildings. The CANIC crew crossed over a bailey bridge dubbed “Edith Bridge” just before driving into Srednije. They followed very steep mountain roads to Semizovac, where they observed several Egyptian APCs and soldiers guarding a railway station checkpoint. There were lots more wrecked buildings all the way down the mountain road to Sarajevo.
On a return trip to VK, they passed through Klenovic, and found evidence of severe ethnic cleansing, with lots of damage everywhere. There were dozens of wrecked farms, and no occupants could be seen, although there were a few fresh haystacks (very few). It was the same in Bravsko. Ethnic cleansing to the nth degree. They 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. The town of Ripoc appears to be more than 90% destroyed due to both battle and ethnic cleansing. The CANIC crew pulled into the city of Bihac. They passed by an M53/59 twin 30mm SPAAG (Czech & Yugo made), burned out on the edge of the road just south of Ripoc.
The crew continued on to the Canadian camp at Coralici, with its gate on the West side of the road and well marked. The gate guard on duty had been in 2 Commando when the author was in Cyprus in 1986-87. The crew visited Capt Bob Martyn, the Battle Group Int Officer. He had a nine person Int Section (including Private Hereford from 6 Int Coy in Edmonton. The LdSH and the PPCLI make up the bulk of the battle group in Coralici. The crew continued on to VK where they met their new CO (Admin), Col M.D. Capstick. It had taken roughly eight and a half hours of mountain driving to cover the 359 km between Sarajevo and VK.
The next morning the CANIC crew drove 2-3 km into Croatia and north to Mihojska. Here one 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 to have it smashed out again, probably by the same neighbours who did it in the first place. The message was very clear, they don’t want these people to move back. They drove south to Jovov, Dunjak, and Donja Busovaca and then looped back to Krstinja. Everywhere you looked there were shot up farms. They noticed that the gravestones of Serbs had been shot up with pistol rounds. The Croat and Bosnia-Herzegovina ethnic cleansing of Serbs and their homes was just as intense here as what was observed on the other side. The crew headed back to VK, and in the afternoon, the 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. The crew headed back to camp (it was not a place one would really want to spend a lot of time in, let alone six months. We were glad to be working in Sarajevo).
The desolation and destruction throughout the country makes one think of the scorched earth policy in place during Napoleonic times. In many cases, every building, no matter how remotely situated, had been destroyed. The crew found a UNIPTF station in Lusci Patanka sited in a town that was completely wrecked. There were people carrying out repairs in the towns of Fnjtovici and Kamengrad (about 50% destroyed). They passed by a number of British AS-90 155mm self-propelled guns in an SFOR camp at or near Sanski Most (“Most” means bridge). Then they came upon a Czech recce platoon (the real thing), with three BMP-2 APCs and supporting SSVs, just like what Int staff have been teaching from the books on Fantasian and Generic Enemy forces.
The road running into Kljuc on Bluebird route was very rough. They found a lot of damage in Komar, and a patrol of Dutch M-113s on the route into Travnik. Here there were lots of buildings undergoing repairs and a good road to Kakanj. They took a major detour through Visoko. The main highway bridge here had been blown down during the war and the site was still causing a major detour, although SFOR engineers were working on cutting the mess up and putting a bailey type bridge across the river. The crew arrived back into Sarajevo after a 400 km return trip in eight hours.
On 30 Jul 97, there was a US four-star change of command ceremony, with Gen Crouch handing over the command of SFOR to Gen Eric K. Shinseki. Gen Wesley K. Clark from SACEUR presided over the ceremony. Just before the ceremony, the author ran into Gen William W. Crouch and spoke briefly with him about the situation in theatre. The author also spoke with the SFOR Political Advisor, Ms Mette Nielsen about Madame Plavsic, one of the Serb leaders invited to the ceremony but who didn’t show up. The Generals in charge of each of the three MNDs also changed 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.
On 11 Aug 97, a CANIC Brainstorming session was held for all NICs. This was the first regular meeting with members of the CANIC, NONIC, TUNIC, SWENIC, and UKNIC (GCHQ). A second meeting for the CANIC, ITNIC, NLNIC, SPNIC and CO UKNIC took place in the afternoon. The author had dubbed these meetings 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 each participant had to leave his rank and flag at the door. Also, everyone had to have a cup of coffee if they came in (the theory being it is hard to be disgruntled with a cup of coffee in your hand). Major disagreements were to be taken out to the penalty box (an outdoor shed roofed over and wired with a stereo system above the bench built by the CANIC crew). The Germans dubbed the meetings “brainstorming” sessions, and the name stuck.
In August the crew visited HQ MND SE at Camp Ortijes on the east side of the Neretva river. The French, Spanish, Moroccans, Germans and three Canadians occupy this Camp. They also visited the AMIB team in Camp Ortijes. On another trip they drove north to Tuzla and on into the Serb Republic. At the IEBL they came upon the infamous “Arizona Market” with a proliferation of vendors selling watermelon, cassette tapes, car parts and just about anything legal or illegal one 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 began 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 they were still on Arizona route. They 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 they 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).
Heading south, the crew stopped to eat in a restaurant at Vlasenica. The owner was reluctant to let armed soldiers in (“it is bad for business,” he explained in German), but he agreed to let them eat outdoors where he served them “deer medallions.” As they ate, they noticed some very interested visitors inspecting their Mitsubishi. In fact, too many and too often the same swarthy individuals for their comfort. They paid their 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 them on the way, both very reassuring).
On 28 Aug 97, Brcko exploded in the morning. Organized “demonstrators” were bussed in by the Pale faction of the RS to harass and intimidate the UN IPTF. SFOR does not supposed to fight unarmed civilians. Civil matters are handled by the police. 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. The Canadian RCMP representative, Duncan, was one of the few who stayed to monitor the situation in the city throughout the crisis. The 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 video-teleconference (VTC), BGen Simon Munro tried to lighten up the atmosphere by bemoaning the lack of music. The author went back and got the CANIC miniature tape recorder and taped a bit of “Monty Python” music to have for the next morning’s VTC. The next morning, at the 0800 VTC he waited until the Brigadier marched in and as he came by he hit the tape. The Italian beside him jumped away to distance himself from the author, but the Brigadier’s aide, a Scottish major flashed him a big grin and a thumbs up. The Brigadier hollered, “that’s not my regimental march,” but then smiled and sat down. (The Scottish major later went one better, and did the same thing only with the correct march. The author spent weeks trying to find a real piper to see if he could one up him again, but both were posted out. There is no point in letting everyone get bored).
The crew had a very good all-NICs meeting at 0930. The author had a very long chat with the Turkish NIC CO, Col Celik. Col Celic took out a red-ribboned gold medal that his father had earned during the Turkish war of Independence during the 1920’s. As a serving member of the Turkish Army, this was the one day he is permitted to wear it on his father’s behalf. He invited the author as his guest to the Turkish Victory Day celebration at the Army Hall in downtown Sarajevo. He picked the author up in his land rover and then drove to the hall with flags flying. The guests observed a promotion ceremony for three Turkish officers, two of whom the author knew. One was promoted to LCol and one to Maj. The recipients were bussed on both cheeks in the same manner as the French officers. Very interesting evening.
On 30 Aug 97, WO Byron K. Mackenzie and the author headed up Finch route to Visoko en route to Banja Luka and VK. They still had to detour around the destroyed bridge near the former Canadian camp at Visoko, but there was a lot of reconstruction underway. They 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. With lots of shops and large department stores, it looked like a thriving city. (How did it escape the war?). They passed by the parliament buildings, which were guarded by the only soldiers in the RS permitted by SFOR to carry rifles - very unusual. They drove north to the UNIPTF camp and then west to the MND SE HQ camp where they stopped for lunch at British PX restaurant called Echos. A large VRS military camp was sited very close to the UN camp and not far from the SFOR HQ. From MND SE HQ, they headed straight west to Prijedor.
As they neared the Croatian border, the ethnic cleansing became evident again with a vengeance. By the time they 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. They 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). They made a brief stop At the Canadian camp in Coralici to visit Capt Rob Martyn and his Int staff, and then headed on up to Velika Kladusa. That evening in camp, we learned that 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.
The following day the crew headed south to Coralici and dropped in on Capt R.B. Martyn for a longer visit. Arrangements were made to bring a few of his Int Ops down to Sarajevo for some OJT (and a change). They drove on to Bihac and circled through the town on the way. There was a very impressive castle on a hill just south of Bihac, but it was obscured by villages that had suffered some very heavy ethnic cleansing. They continued south on Bluebird route to Bosanski Petrovac, passing long expanses of abandoned, trashed and neglected farms in large open plains. They also passed a wrecked DC-3 Dakota memorial near Vitoce, then turned south on Emu route and drove up over the mountains towards the town of Drvar. On the way they passed a large stand of tees planted on a bare hill spelling out Tito’s name. They drove up past a ski resort that had serious damage and the Croatian flag flying everywhere, and then down the other side of the mountain into Tito Drvar.
The town had suffered a lot of damage, but it was decked out with a lot of political posters. The town falls under the Canadian Area of Operations (AOR) and is continuously bubbling along with violent demonstrations and confrontations. There were a good number of HVO troops everywhere. They continued on North to Zablace and got back on Bluebird route, heading East to Mrkonjic Grad, then South to Jezero and on to Vulture route to Sipovo. They stopped for break at the UK SFOR base in Sipovo (King’s Royal Hussars equipped with Scimitars).
They drove back up into the mountains again and headed south on Parrot route, noting a major change in the terrain as they ascended. The saw lots of stone and thicket walls and fences along the way, until they arrived at what appeared to be a ghost town on the IEBL, and then a wide bare plain at 5,000’ stretching out to the mountains on the far horizon. It was hard to believe they 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, they came upon “Ice Station Zebra”, a former Canadian Checkpoint. It was manned by Malaysians, and there could not have been a more remote or bleak Observation Post (OP) in the country (although some of the Czech camps come close). They drove on into the severely damaged town of Kupres and back into Federation territory with Croatian flags flying everywhere (not the new approved Federation flag, or even the Bosnia-Herzegovina flag). They headed North on Gull route to Donji Vakuf, where British engineers were putting a new bailey bridge across the river. They zig-zagged again over the high volcanic peaks with a fine sunset over the mountains behind them, taking the main route back into Sarajevo.
While on a four day pass from his tour of duty with SFOR in Sarajevo, the author took a German Transall transport aircraft flight to Ramstein AFB, Germany, where he rented a car and explored familiar parts of Germany, heading southeast to see what had changed since the closure of CFE. He visited the former Canadian base at Baden-Söellingen and discovered that it was now a commercial airpark. The old green air traffic control tower that he used to skirt while coming in to land with his parachute had been 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 was locked up. He drove a very familiar autobahn route south to Lahr, pulling into the former Canadian base, which sat under the Schutterlindenburg.
The airport theatre is now an indoor-outdoor skate-board centre. The old fire hall had 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 is called the Flugplatz Kirke. Lahr itself does not appear to have changed much. He drove by 101 Schwarzwald Strasse (where the author and his family lived from 1989-92), the Bank of Montreal (now a Turkish Market), and the former PMQ area (where the author lived from 1981-83). The Kaserne where the Brigade Int Section and the Int Section at HQ CFE were located now had the appearance of a tumbleweed-like ghost town, very sad. The Black Forest Officer’s Mess (BFOM) was 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.
The author drove up to the castle ruins of Hohengeroldseck, which hasn’t changed much since it was burned by the French in 1689, then back through Lahr, looping around some of the streets, very familiar and much the same as when the Canadians left it. He took the autobahn back to Baden-Baden, and while downtown, went for a two hour soak in the Caracalla baths, thoroughly enjoying every second of it. He spent the night in the Hotel Schwann near the base in Baden- Söellingen after a brief walk around town.
In November the CANIC crew drove down the Neretva River valley to visit MND SE HQ in Mostar, with plans to travel over the mountains to visit the pilgrimage town of Medugorje. The author went into the cathedral with Sgt Free, and walked around to view the mountains from the back in very heavy rain, thunder and lightning. There was an unusual “feeling” to the place. Not long afterwards, WO J.L.A. Martineau had a car smash his vehicle mirror just beside the shop the crew was in, attracting their attention (another unusual coincidence). He took the crew 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. It is quite a remarkable place, with lots of Italian soldiers visiting the site. The crew drove on down to Caplina with its fortified monastery and then back into Mostar, then headed back up the Neretva valley passing the battlefields and heavy damage one never gets used to seeing.
On 15 Nov 97 the CANIC staff set off on a trip to Trebinje. It was cloudy with a few rays of sunlight and fog. Sgt Mario Paris was at the wheel of the Mitsubishi, and Sgt Chris W. Free had his rifle ready. They drove past Butmir downhill along a broad beautiful mountain and river gorge. They passed in and out of the IEBL and through the Gorazde corridor, noting several TD type tanks in the RS at Brod. They 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. They drove up through thick fog high into the mountains, and then crossed a bailey bridge from route Tuna to route Viper heading south. On the way they met a “professional” VRS (Serb) soldier while pausing to change drivers. There were a few patches of sun, and then the crew had a near miss with a bulldozer blade on a flatbed passing too close on a narrow road along the Drina River. They drove past snow covered mountains on the route near Suhe, then passed by a very unusual memorial at Tjentiste. The memorial looked like some kind of ski-lift or resort marker.
They had a beautiful drive high up in the mountains. The sun came out at Cemerno, lighting up the snow and fog-capped peaks. A cold but clear beautiful blue sky opened up over them as they crossed over the top of the mountains at Vrba. They zig-zagged past the Motel Klinje and drove down to Gacko with its large conical coal-fired power plant. They passed by a Spanish SFOR camp on the hill above the eastern edge of Gacko. Following along a low flood plain, they came off the mountain roads in very bright sunshine. Cattle, pigs and sheep were being dressed by local farmers. Troops manning Spanish APCs were observing an RS political rally in Avtovac. They followed a straight route (very unusual in Bosnia-Herzegovina) along low scrub and rock, then found themselves on a moderately winding route to the large town of Biljeca. This town had 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 was a large old stone fort overlooking the reservoir on the south side of the town. There were a lot of low stone walls and old stone buildings partially submerged in the reservoir. They drove into the beautiful town of Trebinje with a very fine old multiple-arched stone bridge, and then on through the IEBL, stopping to take pictures of a badly shot-up BVP-M-80 APC. This was a very rough road, and they paused to examine it before proceeding. Just then, an Italian Carabinieri vehicle arrived, and after a brief chat, escorted them through and guided them down to the road to Dubrovnik high above the Adriatic coast. The mountain ride was incredible, and the view of the Adriatic sea leaped up at them as they crested the last mountain. What a change from wet and snowy Sarajevo. (The route they took from Sarajevo to Broad to Trebinje to Dubrovnik was 286 km. Their return route via Mostar would be 274 km).
Author and Sgt Chris Free beside the wreckage of a BVP-M-80 APC north of Dubrovnik.
The following day they continued up the North West Coast , then North on Pacman route, stopping into MND SE HQ and stopping for lunch in Mostar. They spoke with Capt Andrew G. Morrison, (a 3 Int Coy officer serving with the AMIB Det in Medugorje and LCdr Denise LaViolette, (Canadian PAFFO in Mostar). They also contacted the CANIC for a SITREP. It seems that the Serbs had been acting up and tried to take over the Mount Trebevic radio tower (1629m high). Butmir was also being blockaded (it figures, leave for one day and the dust hits the fan).
On 16 Dec 97, Capt Bob Martyn and Sgt Ollia Kitash from the LdSH BG came down to Sarajevo for a visit from Coralici. The CANIC crew took them for a tour of the battle damage in Sarajevo under a heavy snowfall, and then went up to the Turkish fort and out to Butmir.
On 20 Dec 97, the CANIC crew set out on a mission to Bugojno. They checked out two Galeb aircraft and an old Dragonfly helicopter (museum pieces) at the ARBiH Camp at Pazaroc. Continuing on to Tarcin, under a bright double rainbow, with the weather alternating wet and then turning to heavy rain for the rest of the day. An SFOR BRDM-2 (Ukrainian) guarded the tunnel exit. They passed by a pair of TD tanks at Bradina, plus a home-made APC and several small AT guns. There were quite a few Federation Troops on parade. It rained heavily as they drove over to view a wrecked the Second World War memorial bridge with several small trains parked nearby. This site is one of Tito’s memorials to a successful partisan breakout at Jablanica. They continued on Opal route North West. They drove by a big dam on the Rama River just six km west of Jablanica, then ran into more rain and fog all the way up into the mountains, through the town of Gracac and up to the Croat town of Prozor. They made a brief stop for lunch at the King’s Royal Border Regiment Camp (MND SW) in Gorni Vakuf. There was very heavy battle damage throughout the area. They continued on to Bugojno to view the munitions factory which was the object of the trip, which was 162 km each way. It poured rain all the way down the mountain. They arrived back in Sarajevo by 1700 hours.
On 26 Dec 97, the author spent his last morning in Sarajevo. His first stop was to see the CJ2, BGen Isler. The General surprised the author by presenting him with an NSA bronze coin. Most of his colleagues in the other NICs had already rotated out. He dropped in to say farewell to the residents of the USNIC, DANIC, GENIC, NLNIC, the FRNIC, the Hellenic NIC, the ITNIC, the SWENIC, the SPNIC and the TUNIC. The CO of the TUNIC paraded all six personnel, Col, LCol, 2 Capts, 2 Sgts, to say goodbye. The author presented them with a book on the province of New Brunswick to keep as a souvenir, then visited the UKNIC and finally stopped at the CANIC. Capt Al Haywood had organized the crew and turned them out on parade, a very decent and greatly appreciated gesture. There were many more thank yous and goodbyes. They were an excellent crew to work with. Maj Rick Mader would be arriving with a good team waiting for him.
They headed north with Sgt Mario Paris driving and accompanied by Maj Louis Garneau (PAFFO) en route to Zagreb at 09:30 hours, just as the fog began to lift. The huge blown down bridge at Visoko had almost been restored. They passed through a Turkish checkpoint guarded by modified M-113 and BTR-80 APCs near Zenica. The crew drove along a very long route lined with wrecked and destroyed homes, some battle damaged, most ethnically cleansed, all the way north to Bosanski Brod, passing by a horse-drawn funeral cortege en route. The destruction just got worse, and the amount of it, even at this late date, proved very depressing to view. They crossed a checkpoint manned by Americans on the river to Slovanski Broad on the Croatian side.
They continued along highway 180 to Zagreb, noting an immense change in the villages and the scenery along the way. They were back in central Europe. They zig-zagged through the 900-year old but very modern city of Zagreb to the Holiday Hotel. They had to stay in an executive suite with its own living room and two bathrooms (oh dear). They enjoyed a great meal in the hotel. The last few days of late nights caught up with them and all zonked out, although there was a lot of “pre-New Year’s Eve” gunfire outside. The author repacked some of his kit, then the next day the crew drove back out to the airport to pick up Maj Rick Mader, the author’s replacement and incoming CO of the CANIC, at 15:30 hours. They took him to Pleso to clear in, then had supper in the hotel, lots of chat and hand-over notes. It was still raining, and there was more gunfire all night.
On 28 Dec 97 they set out from Zagreb with Mario, Louis and Rick en route to VK, driving through Karlovac via the autobahn, then South to VK in BiH. This was the first view of the typical urban damage in the area for Rick. They toured Velika Kladusa camp, then met with Col M.D. Capstick, who conducted the formal hand-over, Board of Inquiry (BOI) and presided over their official change of command. Both Majors were presented with handover scrolls from CC SFOR. Rick was given a briefing by Capt Bob Martyn and WO Jack W. Campbell from the LdSH BG. At 15:30 hours they headed back to Zagreb, had supper in the hotel, and did some final repacking. The gunfire never let up, which made the author decide to sleep on the floor. On 29 Dec 1997 they went over to Pleso to turn in the last of his kit. The author handed over his pistol to Rick (all rounds still intact). He also handed in his flak jacket, gave his helmet to Louis, and then said good luck and goodbye. Not long afterwards, the author found himself on his flight home and the end of his SFOR tour in Bosnia-Herzegovina Herzegovina.
NATO Medal for Former Yugoslavia (NATO-FY).