Out of Bosnia

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

5 - 10 Jun 1996

Wed 5 Jun

Scott arranges for Chief Kennedy to come by at 1000 so we can pack. I get some done, mostly finish up hand receipts and computer files. I was downstairs in the office when Cliff Baker drops in and says "I just wanted to thank you for that briefing for all the five-year-olds among us yesterday." I started to apologize when he said "At first I was furious but when I saw you and Scott cringing and trying to hide under the couch I had all I could do to keep from laughing. Don't worry - we can deal with it." With this and packing, I didn't have a chance to call Shawn again.

Out at 1000. Scott makes a quick stop at the kiosk at LA Pat, then we head on to Sekovici and introduce the new team to Mayor Stupar. I walk the NCO's through the normality indicators area. For lunch, the major goes back to the convoy for an MRE; Scott, some of the other new team and I have chicken at a cafe. Then we go to the elementary school to introduce the team to Mrs. Hectic, the principal.

From there we go on to visit the radio station. On the way back, somebody hands Scott a pachage from Mrs. Hectic. It's a beautiful calendar and diary. Scott and I go back over to the school and Scott gives her an English-Serbo-Croatian New Testament in return. Then we stop off at the cafe across from the police station. Jezdemir is there and we have a nice farewell chat. He alludes to the bombing. I said we did it to stop the killing and asked how many Serbs would be dead now if the fighting were still going on. I could almost see the lightbulb go on in his head, as he answered that they had a funeral every week in Sekovici during the war. The major spends the time sitting in the vehicle, studying Serbo-Croatian and practicing it with the kids, like a kindly uncle. How do I figure this? The guy who was a complete oaf yesterday is seriously studying the language today and relating genially to the local kids. Truly this deployment is an education in the complexities of human nature.

On the way back we stop at Demi to pick up the OER's. We have to wait until after the shift change briefing for the commander to sign them. We get to Diane at 2200. I pack, get ready for bed, and Mr. Hrnic drops by at 2300! He has a development proposal he wants us to forward, on a soft-drink bottling venture using local wild berries. We go over it and take notes. He has gifts for us: silk ties, an antique coffee grinder for Scott and me, and an antique iron for Scott. One of his ancestors used it to iron the King's clothes. It's about 0100 by the time I get to bed. Up until after midnight working on our last day - no chance to display a short-timer's attitude for us.

Thu 6 Jun

Up at 0530. Despite the happiness of the day I'm exhausted and cranky at first. We head out to Demi at 0630 to sign out, then come back with the maintenance convoy at 0830. We finish packing. LT Stein of the scouts (the guy who found my pocket knife) comes by at 0900. We load the gear, get some last-minute photos, then head out. We drop off at Tent City 2, meet SFC Pashek and a few guys from other teams. We stop by the CIMIC, visit with LTC Kilgariff and chat. We turn in our ammo, head back to the tent city, and rest a bit.

At 1600 we head back to the CIMIC. I finish up Hrnic's report (had most of it done before ammo turn in). How's that for dedication? Doing CA work the day we leave. At 1630 we meet in the parking lot and get our flight info. I stop by the PX, head back to the tent city and nap till 2030. I re-pack, shower, catch up on my journal, and get to bed at 2230. Tent city is almost a party zone after the field - no cover in the tent areas and no battle rattle.

On the new team: the captain and the two NCO's are all right. The CPT has a cool sense of humor. The SSG has book learning and is a sharp troop, but needs a little humility. the question mark here is the major. I have seen him be a real jerk and a first-class guy. Which one rules will determine how the team goes. He very graciously thanked us for our help, but on the other hand he didn't want to pay for Ray's power converter, after being told it was Ray's personal property. As a result, we had no choice but to bring it back. What will they do for 110 power? We're concerned they may bad-mouth us or undo a lot of what we've done. Scott says he hears some of the major's own unit doesn't like him. But I'm out of here and this is not under my control. To nije moj problem.

Fri 7 Jun

Up at 0530. Have breakfast and load out by 0700. We wait at the terminal most of the day. Some doubt we'll fly. The First Armored insists everone depart by ground transport but USASOC flies its people out. We finally do fly but I wonder if this sours relations and creates problems for the next rotations. Apparently USASOC doesn't communicate well with other units and there are hard feelings many levels above us. Pashek and I honcho the palleting at 1130. Both been there, done that before, and it's done in 20 minutes. We had 4100 pounds and got it on one pallet. Berenz says good job.

At 1340 we march out to the runway. BG Cherrie's chopper comes in, then we spot the plane at 1400. We see USACAPOC patches on the outgoing troops, then we march on. Wheels up at 1435. It's crowded and uncomfortable. Most of us sleep most of the way. We touch down at Ramstein at 1630. We bus over to the main passenger waiting room, then have a fairly long bus ride to Kaiserslauterm Kaserne. We get in at 1830, have a short inbrief, store our weapons in the arms room, then hold a 432d meeting. Hoskins, Hadrick and I go to a local pizzeria. They get beer, I have a spaetze. We had scheduled a meeting for arms room guards at 1930, but by the time we got back everone had decided to get their weapons back and relocate them in Pashek's room. I said I wasn't going out so they could come to my room instead.

It's sunny and hot but drier than Bosnia. We hit a good downpour on the way over from Ramstein. We can now wear soft cap and no battle rattle. Almost a vacation!

Sat 8 Jun

Up at 0330, hand out weapons, bus leaves at 0430. MAJ Sarkela is missing! People from other units were very unsympathetic but Berenz says "This is not typical. Something's wrong." It was. He was in the bathroom when the bus left. He was brought in later, quite embarrassed.

We wait at the terminal, then load the buses about 0630 for the ride to the flight line. I recalled the same flight line, going the other way, from Desert Storm. Wheels up at 0719. It's a C141 with rear-facing seats (the seats are on cargo pallets and load and unload like any other pallets). It's over 7 hours to Gander. I sleep much of the way. We arrive at 0825 (1355 Bosnia time). Gander is gray and spritzing rain, just like I last saw Newfoundland in 1973. Everone else was very puzzled by the fact that Newfoundland time is half an hour out of sync with everyplace else. We lay over for two hours, with not much to do in the terminal. I call Shawn collect. We reboard; my last glimpse of Newfoundland is typical: ragged low clouds, a few patches of blue, still raining, and endless empty forest on the skyline. I wish I could be here instead of where I'm headed now. Wheels up again at 1040 (1610 Bosnia).

The flight to Bragg takes 3-1/2 hours. I sleep and write notes for some civilian projects I have in mind once I get back. We arrive at 1400 (2000 Bosnia time). Customs lines us up on the tarmac, selects a few duffels at random, then clears us. We hike a good half mile in the hot sun to the pickup point. The bus comes at 1500. We move into the barracks just about where we started out six months ago. I go back with a crew at 1600 to break down the pallets. We're done by 1700. After chow I round up the gear for CIF (Clothing Issue Facility) and clean it, then call Shawn. She's not home, so I leave a message. To bed at 2000 (0200 Bosnia time).

Sun 9 Jun

Up at 0600, load my laundry. I have chow, call Shawn. After waiting unsuccessfully for the church shuttle, I walk over to clothing sales (three miles in about an hour). I pick up a Leatherman for Chris and Brendan as gifts, then head for the PX, another three miles. It rains much of the way. I wait out the worst of it under cover. I hoped to get something to read but the PX has almost nothing. On the way back I was offered a ride. To bed 2000.

Mon 10 Jun

Up at 0530, formation at 0700. We go to dental check and are out in less than an hour. Some of us return to the barracks but nobody else turns up. We go back to check it out and find out everyone else is going over to medical checkup as well. We're all done by 1230. We try to lay on some additional processing but it's a no-go. We're free all afternoon. I change to PT gear (it's in the 90's) and repack some more.

COL Meyer comes over and asks me to address the graduating 38A class tomorrow. Then Ray Comfort drops by (he and his wife are on a long tour here). We set up a dinner for tomorrow evening.

Our NCOIC is MSG Caruso. Looks a lot like Martin Landau. The OIC is COL Bacci (it's going to take me a while to get used to that name!) We are about to begin the Demob Week from Hell. Even having a bird colonel angry on our behalf barely manages to move anything.

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Created 23 Apr 1997 Last Update 15 January 2020

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