Notes From the Field
Although technology takes center stage in the drama of keeping peace in Bosnia, the real heroes are frequently unsung—regular folks who find themselves in irregular times. If there is a common thread, it is ingenuity and determination. The following excerpts from a reporter's notebook provide some snapshots from the field.
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In Sarajevo, Marine Capt. Dave Rowe—the DISA-EUR representative in Bosnia—can capture the hope and the horror of that battered city with one sweep of his head around the former Olympic stadium, now the site of commercial satellite dishes installed by NATO and the United States.
Looking up a hill, Rowe points out the still-standing but bullet-scarred Olympic torch and calls attention to fields on either side of the torch. "Those are mass graves.... They're all over the hillsides here." Looking downhill from the antenna site and the graves, Rowe points out a sign of a return to normality—a soccer game, played out against the backdrop of the battered Olympic complex.
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In downtown Sarajevo, Spec. 4 Mike Olney of "C" Company, 44th Signal Battalion—which provides tactical satellite comm from Adm. Leighton Smith's IFOR headquarters—lives at the end of a bridge, in a makeshift barracks housed inside the old Bosnian Parliament building, bracketed by a Muslim mosque on one side and an Eastern Orthodox church on the other, each bearing shell scars from the just-ended, four-year civil war.
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At IFOR headquarters—located in the former residence of Josip Broz (Tito), the former ruler of Yugoslavia—Staff Sgt. Ronald Anglin, "C" Company's operations sergeant, proudly displays his field-expedient solution to achieving and maintaining tactical communications from the crowded HQ: wood platforms.
The downtown Sarajevo IFOR compound afforded little space and not much clearance to set up two 8-foot tactical satellite dishes.
But Anglin and his crew left their home base in Germany with not only a lot of comm gear but "plenty of wood, plus hammers and saws." This allowed them to build platforms on a rooftop annex to the IFOR HQ, providing the tactical satellites with a clear shot to the geostationary arcs.
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In Zagreb, Bob Minteer, the European rep for N.E.T. Federal, gets ready for his unusual "commute" to help install and maintain the two IDNX nets his company has set up to support NATO and U.S. forces in Bosnia. Minteer straps on body armor and joins the line of soldiers boarding that morning's "NATO shuttle" to Tuzla—this day a twin-engine German air force C-160 cargo plane.
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In Tuzla, Sgt. Aaron Helton, a "cable dog" with "D' Company, 440th Signal Battalion, 22nd Signal Brigade, installs the tail end of a high-speed Bosnian circuit the hard way, one slippery step at a time.
Ankle-deep in a muddy slurry, Helton carefully drags a key piece of communications cable through a ditch at the Tuzla Air Base, which serves as the headquarters of Task Force Eagle, the main U.S. ground force deployed for Operation Joint Endeavor.
At an intersection Helton waits as Staff Sgt. Benjamin Hutchinson straps on a set of gaffs and inches his way up a telephone pole to help thread the cable across a road carrying a stream of Humvees.
On the other side stands another pole, another "cable dog" and the Task Force Eagle HQ—the end of one of those straight lines on a Pentagon chart.
-- Bob Brewin