Chapter 2 – Arrival at Blue Factory

Not yet edited. If you attempt to read through the daily entries you will understand some of what happened but mostly why a spell checker and grammar are so important. 1998 – ASCII email. I didn’t have either.

Blue Factory – 17 April 1998

Today was another long and busy day – started at 0600 and I am ready to crash.

having email trouble – can no longer get out on this account – so may well have to print, scan and send out on the other system, but need to write as I go.

We started with an early formation, then on into another set of briefings. Got an overview of what the Civil-military affairs team does, and what the NorMedCoy personnel do. Then more meetings while all of my crew went and hooked up with their counterparts to learn the day to day operations of this place.

At 1100, about 10 of us headed up to several of the base camps via helicopter. Got a chance to get a tour of McGovern from the doc their who is part of the 2nd ACR out of Ft Polk Louisiana and stopped for lunch. It is really a bare bones camp, but the amount of improvement there compared to 2 years ago is nothing short of amazing.

We then flew over to Ulyavic which is a small special forces, MI and misc. people in a camp across a wooden suspended swinging bridge from the Russian Brigade eadquarters. Did I mention that is right next to a huge electrical generation and transformer farm? really ugly,

From there headed to Bedrock, troops from 1AD who came in about Feb. Their home base is Baumholder, Germany. This is where the 212th MASH originally set up in Dec 1995/Jan 19
96. up on top of a major hill, that, before the war, was gravel and construction materials.

Flying over, the devastation is even more apparent from the air – kilometer after kilometer of houses without roofs, shells of burned out vehicles.

The terrain is “mountainous” in the same way as the Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia hills are. Steep peaks, forested areas, stream buried inside that are totally inaccessible by ground, but there are no tree lines – no snowy peaks.

Saw herds of goats, a few sheep, lots of chickens, have not yet seen a cow.

If you are looking for web information – search on tfeagle to find the web information for the main operation, TF261 to comeup with the current medical taskforce and 396th CSH

I am changing over email systems today – now have incoming but no outbound.

will try to include the URL’s in the next message.

evening of meetings surrounded by noise. It is Friday night!

Got a couple of hour break and got invited over to the Barn which is the NorMedCoy after-hours place. They did a wonderful presentation of Norway, history, land, people, customs and industry and had a farewell dinner for the two commanders that are leaving.

will try to include more about them in tomorrow’s message – am just wiped out!

18 April 1998- Blue Factory

Another late night – and I hardly remember this morning.

Might be because there was someone knocking on the door at 3:30 in the morning about a patient problem and Kris had to get up and deal with a phone call. Didn’t get much sleep after that.

Great living conditions for a deployment. We have UN-BH containers. If any of you have ever seen a milvan – or the container that is on your back average double trailer, about the right size. Inside this van – with a window on both long ends and a door in one of the ends – is a small table, a plywood open cabinet with shelves, a couple of chairs and a bunk bed. I have mine to myself.

Having done the field drill – there are no complaints.

There are “hygiene containers” as well. So, flush toilets and indoor showers with a reasonable water pressure and hot water.

Brown and Root is the contractor who provides the cleaning for the areas that get cleaned. No, do not get maid service. But laundry is free. Dining facility is pretty good, lots of choices and many of them are really healthy. Have diet sodas, no fat yogurt and lots of different salads.

Would you believe that there were a couple of more meetings this morning? Also had the weekly meeting of the MultiNational Division North health care providers. Today, besides the staff from the departing hospital and mine, we had participants from the Finish, Danish, Polish, Swedish and Norwegian contingents, the chief of the Russian Hospital and several doctors from the International Monitoring group that is assisting in the exhumations.

The Chief Microbiologist/Epidemiologist from the main Tuzla Hospital presented her work from the last few years on Hanta Virus and the epidemic that occurred here in the 1994-1995 time frame.


Most everyone on my team is busy finding out the last of what they need to know, at the same time – a LAN is going in, review of the last of the property issues, my last nurse arrives. Highlight of the day is once again mail call, but I missed it and the first sergeant just tracked me down. Neat stuff – some software for embroidery, a Herschner’s catalog…. can you tell that mail becomes quite important.

Most importantly – my email is up.

Afternoon was devoted to reviewing all the upcoming potential problems and operations in the area. Got a tour of Guardian Base, the compound attached to my area. The Regimental Support Squadron there is from Ft Polk like the rest of the 2ACR. Good facilities for his soldiers, large barn of a meeting room, a gym, food court, cappuccino bar, PX, video rental – frankly feels like a lot of small posts in the states Stopped by the post office – but they got full, so they closed early.

This evening the Norwegians hosted a farewell to the 396th and a hello to us; all my personnel were over there for hours. I visited but a short time, the smoke was beyond anything I could tolerate, blue haze is not my thing.

I also got a chance to call home and talk to the kids and George. I think they are holding together all right, but school starts again on monday and that ought to be an improvement.

Tomorrow looks like it is coming soon, I have to be up at a reasonable hour, see the 396th have an award ceremony, wander around like made while we take over control of both the hospital and the task force.

Will also get a tour of the Nordpol brigade area, and visit all their clinics. including Valhalla and Odin .

off to bed. still owe all of you the websites.

19 April1998 – Blue Factory


Carmen found rather detailed roadmaps on a site called

so that might help.

Morning dawned grey and rainy – started trying to get to the dining facility about 0615 and gave up by 1030. Just kept running into people who needed to talk to me

At 1030 I gave up and headed back to my room to grab my battle rattle and meet the scheduled 1100 departure. Battle Rattle = kevlar helmet, flak vest, load bearing equipment . name should now be self evident as you think of someone walking with all of this stuff on.

Trip today was out to visit the camps and headquarters of the Nordpol Brigade. As I mentioned before, the US is the lead in sector North, with fun cities like Doboj and Brcko. we have part of the sector, one brigade is contributed by the NordPol, one <-> by the Russians, and one <-> by the Turks.

We started at the Norwegian Battalion HQ, were treated to lunch and then got to meet the physicians, nurses and tour the facilities. They have a small clinic with a few holding beds, the ability to stabilize injury or illness and the ability to ground transport to us. They also ran down the area they cover, terrain, and the kind of forces they do it with.

Went on to NordPol HQ, where the Chief of Staff had his staff brief us on the BDE structure, their capabilities, their mission and the total area they covered. Their area alone has at least 4 million mines left and most of the worst devastation. Thousands of displaced persons and

we went from there by ground to the FinBn who covered the same type of information. and then gave us a tour of their basecamp and aid station

From there we went by ground to Camp Valhalla to talk with the Danes, the crew hit the Danish hot-dog stand then we went to their other base camp Dannevirke. The Executive Officer for the BN quickly showed us the same type of information and then took us for a tour

Again by ground – crossing the ZOS for about the fourth time on to the Polish Battalion HQ – similar information and a look at their small clinic and holding area.

Hospitality is key to many of these functions and am glad that I got out first so that I know what is expected!

I needed all of the information to do my job, but it was more interesting to see the differences. The Norwegians are all volunteers; most of the professional staff are reserve officers who do a six month rotation. Most of the regular army soldiers are sent for six months but extend to complete a year. Many have seen prior service in one of the other UN missions such as Lebanon, Golan, and Sinai. They staff their ambulances with docs and nurse anesthetists besides the medic. Their ambulances are known as SISU’s and they are wonderful armored personnel carriers that beat anything we have hands down. they can carry four patients, but work best with two – leaving enough room for staff to continue treatment in route.

The Fins are similar, also have their SISU’s. Again – it is a six month rotation – but all the staff normally does a year. Swedes, again SISU’s. Volunteers.

The Danes have a combination of regular Army and reserves, I forgot to ask how long they stay.

The Pols are in a former hotel. It is former eastern hotel. Their set up is different – their physicians in general are younger and come for a year. They are working hard on the language and equipment compatibility issues.

We flew back After all – when you are driving down the road – there is nothing like standing up through a hatch in a large armored vehicle. and going across heavy equipment pontoon bridges, and seeing what this ambulance feels like while under way.

The rest of us came back over a different route than the one we went up. The flight up was a bit rocky, saw more devastation than I can still believe. In the area near Doboj is “the valley of death” – a former gorgeous productive valley branching off from the Bosna river valley,
every single house and shed, structure the whole way up the valley was destroyed. Most only fit for leveling. The method in this area was not grenades, rather the close all the doors and windows, turn on the gas and let the house explode. This is not just a hand full of houses, but
hundreds. The pilots said at night that there are lights up most valleys, but this one looks like a black waste land with the bones of the buildings showing when there is moonlight.

Coming back, we flew a reasonable height, through a number of passes and around a few mountains. Finally saw one peak that still had snow. Most of the mountains are completely tree covered with no signs of anyone ever living there. Lots of firs and deciduous trees, with maybe 30% being mixed forests.

Flew over the major lake near Tuzla on the way back, passing over a string of former resort hotels that are now burned out shells.

Booming business right now in reconstruction. Saw numerous gravel pits in operation.

Grabbed supper < no I did not eat most of the pastries - and fried eggs and cold cuts did not thrill me for lunch but they had real bread> and then hit my nightly staff meeting, the review meeting with the o/c’s and then met with my Brigade commander from Central Region

Then got to play with the staff on another mock drill to exercise the night crew.

I promised myself that I would finish this by midnight and am pretty close.

need to sleep – tomorrow needs to start early and I want to get some gym time in some where – the PT program certainly went to…. as I got here. OTOH – Passover in a strange place controls the diet. Really appreciated the bread today.

20 April 1998- Tuzla, BiH

Morning dawned. went down to the shower connex before six to beat the

Came up to check email, got tied up, headed to the 7:30 staff meeting and finally got breakfast after 0830.

Had a question about food from Jim. Our food service is completely contract by Brown and Root. There is no problem finding enough for the average person to eat well and lots. There is a central kitchen between two dining rooms over on Guardian Base. Breakfast is the normal Army dining facility breakfast. This means eggs to order, choice of dead animal, potatoes, grits, oatmeal, pancakes, waffles and hard boiled eggs on the hot line. There is also fruit in the center salad bar, four choices of juice, tea, coffee, milk, toast breads, sweat rolls, yogurt.
a veritable breakfast junkies dream.

I normally eat on the “Blue” side referred to as the side that the Blue Factory normally sit at. The other side is open 24 hours a day with soup, breads and pastries always available. was important this evening – at 2130 the only thing that looked good was no fat yogurt and chocolate cake. ok so once in a while I slip, but also had an apple and a banana.

Ran a major MASCAL drill this morning starting at 0900 that continued until almost 1300. Practicing for major disasters is not only a requirement, but one of those requirement that makes sense because it improves an organizations ability to handle the real messes.

The basics here are 20 beds, ICU and extended as well. Two OR tables, lab, pharmacy, xray with ultrasound and CAT scan. My crew is pretty junior as such organizations go – and this gave us a chance to shake out the communications problems and work on all the details of patient flow and information management. Any thing that might go wrong down here and become injury producing has a real potential for involving multiple people, multiple nations and generating a LOT of phone calls.

Basis staffing is provided by general surgeons, ortho surgeon, FP, internist, ER doc, anethesia. augmented with optometry, dentistry, mental health, physical therapy. Also have good complement of nurses, medics, respiratory therapy, lab, xray, pharmacy and patient admin and one dietetics sergeant

That pretty much covers the hospital portion where I have most of an air ambulance company and an area support medical company we also have medical log, motor pool and communications folks.

radios, computers, desks tables, chairs etc.

Anyway – the exercise kicked off with a call from NorMedCoy saying that there was an accident with two injuries in their personnel and they were bringing them in by SISU. then there are several other similar things going on so that by 1xxx we have a couple of SIMULATED critical casualties in the ER, one in the OR and more on the way in. we played
all the way through working out the potential for transfer to the German Hospital in Sarajevo for the two patients with head injuries – they have the neurosurgeon. stratevac for a couple of other patients back to central region and how to best use our assets.

So we used a combination of our docs and nurses along with the folks from NorMedCoy and the outlying folks and got through the drill.

Working through all the requirements for running convoys, and the myriad of other tasks that come along with the territory.

Went over to Tuzla Main and attended the Division Battle update brief and spent time talking to the division surgeon. got a chance to meet a few other players in the process.

came back, evening staff meeting and misc other stuff – mentioned dinner already.

Tomorrow is the Transfer of Authority both here and in Hungary. I have the General Officer from our regional medical command coming in for this. After another briefing and a rapid lunch we head off to Hungary to do the TOA of the unit there.

Please realize that there is a test – one of these days I will give you a message that is almost all acronyms and will expect you to understand what I mean

definitely sleepy time – have to be up in six hours.

TOA – 21 April 1998

2200 –

Believe it or not – I am about an hour ahead of schedule, and will make
it to bed well before midnight!

Day started out at 0600 – was tired enough that I was still asleep when
the alarm went off. Got my email checked and breakfast before the dress
rehearsal for the TOA

played that from 0730 till close to 0900, then tried to deal with all
the details, do the greet the VIP’s and other fun things that happen
when you are hosting a military ceremony. The new medical general from
Central Region came down as well. There were reps from the base our HQ,
Central Region and the military medical’s from Poland, Russia, Norway,
Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Canada, Germany

Promptly at 1100 we started. A TOA is somewhere between a change of
command ceremony and an activation/deactivation ceremony. Now that
doesn’t likely make any sense to the non military people reading this.

So picture our open area to the left as you go out the front of the
hospital. The MWR building is straight ahead. To the left, the large
open area is framed by buildings/milvans/UN Containers and connex’s.
Significant numbers found their perch up on top, complete with lawn
chairs and binoculars.

The formation across the back of the open area is composed of a number
of companies and platoons, all facing the end of the MWR Building where
the reviewing stand is located.
To the far left is the 396th CSH from the Spokane Washington area . Next is are the HHC and D Co/261st ASMB from Ft Bragg,
complete with berets. In the middle as the honor platoon is NorMedCoy.
Next is HHD 67th (Wuerzburg) followed by 159 Med Co (Wiesbaden) and
then 424 Med Log Det (US Army Reserves – New Jersey)

in front of this formation is the color guard with the American, 261 and
67 flags. the Primary staff is on line.

what follows is a series of commands that brings the units to attention,
orders arms, presents arms, brings the colors and all units and platoons
to the correct location. The command is then presented to the commander.
Following this, the national anthem of Norway was played and a soldier
sang our national anthem. He has a magnificent voice, and to do it
acapella under these circumstances really was impressive.

Next – the outgoing CSM takes his unit flag, transfers it to his
commander who then holds it out horizontally and it is rolled up and
cased, returned to the color guard. They returned to there positions and
then it was our turn to receive the flag, and uncase, unroll and return
it to the color guard. The flag with staff is significantly taller than
I, and holding it horizontal at chest height was no easy feat.

As you would then guess, there are speeches by the reviewing officer,
the outgoing commander and the incoming commander. key to these speeches
is relevance and brevity.

I got to go last, yanked my notes out of my pocket and started. Normally
I don’t write, just figure out in my head and then go for it. This time
I wanted to make sure that I just did 2-3 minutes and hit the high
points. Of course I had written small, could not read them and had
started with what I though I had written, not what was on the paper.
this was not fun. got through it with a couple of stumbles and was
thoroughly disgusted with the muff. Next time I will do it the way that
it works the best.

I then took the General on a quick guided tour of the hospital. with the
way things were going I was not going to risk taking him upstairs and
finding out the briefing slides were not ready etc. We took him to the
dining facility for lunch, then passed him back to the 1AD Division
Surgeon and the 30th MED BDE commander to return to Tuzla for his flight
to Hungary.

The rest of us rounded up and boarded a helicopter to make the same
trip. TF 67, the other unit from my hospital is located at the NSE
in Taszar and had their change of command the
same day. Besides the two pilots and crew chief had the commander of the
NorMedCoy, my CSM, Chief Nurse, Chaplain and the outbound CDR and his
CSM. We get to Hungary in the usual hour.

Got to the Clamshell. No one there. waited. it is now past 1400. We flag
down a passing DX’d ambulance and hitch a ride over to Tuzla main from
the Medevac location. we get there – the ceremony is over, we had the
flag so had no idea what they did for that part of it.

Kidded the folks about leaving us “in the drop zone” but everyone got
confused with people arriveing by two separate flights. I got a chance
to see almost all of the folks from the unit.

The whole group up there is doing extremely well, they are really
cohesive and excited about their mission. I knew they were fine, but is
nice to see it with your one eyes.

The NorMedCoy commander got a tour of the clinic and we spent time
comparing personnel and discipline differences between the Norwegian and
American military. Given there are about 35k in the Norwegian army, lots
of things are handled by the civilain system for them.

We headed back at 1700, put the battle rattle back on for the trip.
Honestly, am so use to the uniform down here that I had forgotten we
were all walking around armed unitil someone asked if I was up from

since we were “doing the taxi” not patient transfer, the flight medic
seat on the left side of the aircraft was empty. Rode there on the way
back, so could hang part way out of the window and really get a good
luck. Wearing headphones as part of the deal got a great description of
the GPS system and traveloge from the pilots. Nice to have a harness
that lets you move some around.

Got smart this evening, went straight to supper before checking in to
the office. translates – got supper.

evening was pretty quite – just walking around and checking on folks –
finishing up the email and now headed to see if I can help Kris with

The outgoing crew is likely going to be up at 0400, they have to clear
their rooms and breakfast, their buses spot at 0700 and they should roll
at 0800 on the first leg of their journey home.

Q&A – do medics have weapons. EVERYONE in the army with two exceptions
have weapons. first – chaplains as a category are not armed. second –
rare – the individual who becomes a Contientious Objector AFTER entry on
active duty, by special two star general officer board can remain on
active duty and not carry a weapon.

for TF67 in Hungary – the weapons are there – but in the arms room.
for TFME – you wear your weapon and carry your ammo at all times.
exceptions are shower, PT and the Barn. In all of those exceptions the
weapon must be secured according to specific procedures.

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One Response to Chapter 2 – Arrival at Blue Factory

  1. ABNBMET says:

    I was with TF261 but left early to go to BNCOC so I missed the change of command ceremony. Thanks for the memories.

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