Stupari and Tuzla

Steven Dutch, Professor Emeritus, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay

10 - 14 Feb 1996

Sat 10 Feb

Gorgeous day, clear and sunny but cold. We are up at 0730, leave to assess Stupari at 0900. Stupari is about 15 km north of Kladanj over the mountains. We have gorgeous views en route. We are with CI and PSYOPS, the plan being to link our missions to them whenever possible.

There are about 7000 people in the area, half in outlying villages, the rest in the neighboring villages of Stupari and Tarevo. The water system is down to a trickle because of broken pipes and water diversion to Tuzla.

We meet several local officials and have lunch with the local leader. They all feel Kladanj gets the best and leaves them the leftovers. Also, several villages in the area are abandoned. They are concerned what will happen when the former inhabitants come back and find their homes occupied by displaced people. This is a problem all over Bosnia and will be for a long time.

Poor Reschke had guard duty last night and has to drive today. I am filling in another vehicle as assistant driver. We try to get up to Tarevo. Reschke slips off the road a bit and makes a major production out of a minor problem. Miller is exasperated. The road to Tarevo is one lane and cut into the edge of a cliff. There's about 8" of snow on the ground as well. We get within sight of Tarevo, then call it quits and turn around.

We go back to Diane, then over to Demi for staff call. We get back at 2115. I finish out my radio watch shift, and type up the assessment. Comfort and Miller both think the writing is good. I used the 41-10 format but stripped down for use at the local level.

We have gotten about a foot of snow in the last few days. Ardic Ibrahim, the "mayor" of Stupari, says this is the most snow they have had in 11 years. He worked as a cement mixer driver in both East and West Germany and speaks good German, though he is reluctant to use it.

Sun 11 Feb

One month to the day since we mobilized. It's sunny with high thin clouds. We are up at 0830, out at 0900 to go to Demi, only to find the major intersection north of Kladanj blocked by civilian trucks. It takes about half an hour to unsnarl the mess. At one point I hear Ray yell "Move that f------ truck!"

Local kids swarm around asking for "lunch bucket" - MRE's. Also they ask for Pepsi, "bon-bon" (chocolate) and Deutschmarks. I'd like to know where they picked up some of the expressions - they sound British. Maybe British UN troops started it. I don't hand out treats (CA soldiers know better, usually) and I'd like to Article-15 the people who do. It creates dangerous situations: people get rowdy, fall under vehicles, and so on.

The kids here are tiny. Repeatedly, kids who look 8 by US standards tell me they are 12 or 13. Four years of bad nutrition at the wrong time will do that.

We wait at Demi until 1130. I pass the time on language study. Then we convoy to 2 BCT HQ. They have started holding the Sunday Data Dump in the afternoon instead of evening. This is the first time I have seen Vlasenica and LA Lisa in clear daylight. There are lots of sleds, skis, and horse-drawn vehicles on the way. With the ground frozen, LA Lisa is not too bad. The sunshine makes everything look nicer.

Ray came out of the TOC fuming "Kennedy's done it again" - laid on missions MTWTh after we had tried to set a day-on, day-off schedule. Actually, the schedule was supposed to be field day-office day. Maybe her missions will be short.

Brigade is checking licenses, dispatches, etc. We were careful to have all that squared away but the inquisition at the gate never took place.

Our people at Lisa now have a decent tent with flooring and a good heater. The stupid pot-bellied stoves were traded in as fast as possible for good kerosene heaters everywhere. The kerosene heaters use flashlight batteries to heat a filament that lights the wick - slick setup. A week ago they had a fire when the pot-bellied stove flared up. They used two fire extinguishers and covered everything with white dust. Also they have light and power. Not as nice as our place but I can live in a good GP-Medium. The living is coed with a divider for the female area.

The jets are putting on a display here. They fly over at a couple thousand feet, then go vertical. On the ground we hear a tremendous roar, see a short contrail with a bright star at the leading end as they head straight up and we look right up their tailpipes.

There are rumors that the last increment, now at Bragg, will not come (actually, about half do). Jakubenas, down from the 3/4 Cav area (the op area to our north) says there are only 438 Reservists in theater. Lucky us. Major Frost is getting Press-Gazettes sent from home. Green Bay set 3 cold records. Wally Coyle called home today and heard it was 44 degrees, about 70 degrees warmer than a few days ago.

The clouds thicken later in the afternoon. By 1630 it is snowing lightly. This was a nice visit. I saw O'Neill, Ponkratz, Marquette, Frost, Bestul, Decker, Jakubenas, and all the people at LA Lisa.

The return drive was weird. First we halted behind a 5-ton that had dropped its transmission. By the time we get oriented the Bn commander has left us behind. Then while re-forming, I sideswiped another vehicle, trying to stay away from a steep drop on the other side of the road. The damage is minor, but I will have to report it (I do next day - nothing ever comes of it). We get to Demi, and hear on the radio that a soldier who was hooking a towbar to the disabled 5-ton was hurt. The reports suggested he hurt his back when he was squeezed between the two-bar and the truck. At one point there were two ambulances going for him, one from each direction, plus another on standby. The soldier had minor muscle spasms. Responding to these issues keep our escort vehicles very late. We don't get in until 2330.

While waiting in the parking lot, I heard a single shot, then radio chatter. After a couple of minutes, the world's most useless SALUTE report:

Duh - tell me something I don't already know. I later heard that the shot was an accidental discharge from a 9mm. Accidental discharges here are not tolerated - period. They earn a Field Grade Article 15. A 9mm would have been carried by an officer or senior NCO. The best accidental-discharge story I heard involved a major (Active, not Reserve!) in another AO who boasted "I know how to clear my weapon", did, and put a round through the roof of the TOC.

Mon 12 Feb

Up at 0700. Load radio frequencies for an 0830 SP (Start Point), only to have it delayed until 1000. I end up staying back- the seats are taken by the other 3 team members plus the interpreter. I work on condensing the 96th's assessment of Kladanj and cleaning the area. It's a beautiful day, in the 40's and 50's, and the snow melts rapidly. (There's more where that came from!) We have a Catholic communion service at 1600, given by 1LT Wojtkin, who is a lay minister. I pull radio watch 1800-2100 until CPT Miller gets back. I use the time to write a letter to the UWGB folks and Shawn.

Tues 13 Feb

Up at 0700 for 0800 SP. Above freezing but clouds thicken all day. Supposedly February is the last cold month (Wrong!) We get a few miles north of Kladanj and are blocked by a traffic jam - a truck has flipped and completely blocks the road. The trailer is over the edge of the embankment. It took three hours to cut the truck loose; traffic was backed up a mile in either direction. Fortunately, we were near the front and our lane moved first. We drive to Tuzla Main so Kennedy can present invitations to the Joint Military Council (JMC) meetings. We visit the PX for the first time, still scantily stocked. I get a flashlight and a Valentine's day card for Shawn. I saw two Russians there. On the way back we run into another tie-up, this one delayed us only 10-15 minutes.

We get in at 2000 and find we are sharing quarters with the Brigade Finance Team. They came down from Tuzla, ran into the same tie-up we did, on the other side. So they went back to Tuzla, over to the next MSR west, down to Olovo, then up from the south. They got here at 1600.

Our windshield is cracked. Reschke broke it pounding on it to get someone's attention.

While waiting for the traffic jam to clear, I got to know SGT Steve Lindemann. He's NCOIC of the PSYOPS team, 24 years old, fluent in Portuguese aith lots of field experience in Mozambique. When his team first got here they spent two weeks living out of their vehicle. What Lindemann, as only an E-5, was able to accomplish was nothing short of phenomenal. He eventually arranged IFOR radio broadcasts in both Kladanj and Sekovici, and got COL Batiste on both stations. He told me of his high school days in North St. Louis, of the rise of drugs. He managed to escape it. Of his freshman class of 1700, only 900 graduated. Here's a bright, motivated kid who has to cope with all sorts of hazards just to get through school. Lindemann is also an avid rock climber and eventually put up a climbing board outside his quarters to keep in practice.

Wed 14 Feb

Radio watch 0000-0600. The usual - print reports, send Shawn's Valentines Day card, play computer games, check on the guards. After watch I load the radio, get chow, sleep till 1145. After noon I type up the Sekovici assessment, load some computer games, and turn in laundry for the first time. We'll see if the system works.

Comfort spends the day at conferences in Kladanj. Miller goes to Sekovici, feels the mayor is avoiding contact, possibly on orders from the Serb military.

Mail today! I got a letter from Shawn, and a Valentine's Day card and package of Valentines from Marcie Schmidt (a family friend whose sixth grade class has made me their semester project) - on Valentine's Day, yet!

Bernie Rall, the purchasing agent, is stuck with us here until her ride arrives. She's Dutch, gets along with us fine. She's leaving soon. Apparently her relations with superiors are strained. (We never did get the full story.)

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Created 23 Apr 1997 Last Update 15 January 2020

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