22 April 1998- Blue Factory
It was quiet today. considering that today started at about 0400 that is. The folks from the 396th and the 261st had to be up early, bags out front and ready to load for an early departure.
Guess, the busses did show up about 0700 or so, as did the large trucks to take the bags. Buses, remember those old yellow school buses, well give them a bunch of dings and paint them various awful shades of sort of blue and that is what you had. Five of ’em lined up right outside the
gate. school bus seats, no head rests, no muszak, no bathrooms. there is no safe stop on the 3 1/2 or so hour trip up.
There were a lot more good-byes and they did get on the road around nine. From here they travel to Slav Brod and change buses. The reverse of the trip that we took, they have to go across the ZOS several times and had to avoid Brcko due to bridge repairs. From there, they will get on another set of buses and go the rest of the way to Taszar. They have an ADVON
All should be able to fly back to the states around the 28th. The 396th must go back through Ft Benning, the 261st folks should be able to go directly to Ft. Bragg.
We ran a number of security drills, I set up an office, fought with the software, signed a bunch of stuff and otherwise entertained myself. Spent a bunch of time just wandering around and checking on people.
There are a lot of little details that go along with this, everything from running the motorpool to personnel evaluations, medical material to patient care.
With the departure of the other two units, my folks are moving from temporary housing to “permanent quarters”. Lots of happy campers today, we also opened the milvan that brought down the personal gear, so TV’s, Stereos and personal computers are starting to appear.
Had dinner with MAJ Torp, the NorMedCoy commander and several members of
his group, as well as a visiting Hungarian physician who is with them on
an exchange for about five days. After he spends some time with them, we
will also show him our hospital. It is really fascinating to compare the
kind of training differences between the different countries medical
services. The physician training is really pretty standard, but the
amount of training given to the basic medic varies widely as does the
amount they get paid.
I am about to go and try and unpack – what a concept – tonite I will
sleep in a bed! and not in a sleeping bag.
23 April 1998- Thursday? – one week
Before I forget – the web page for Task Force Eagle HQ is
my neighbors on the base –
and their parent page –
the current page for the TF261 for the last six months is
Arrived one week ago. an amazing thought considering all that has happened. One of those times when it seems like yesterday and last year at the same time.
Last night I spent organizing and unpacking. I have yet to find my table as it is buried under all the papers that I have accumulated. Imagine – me trying to be organized and handle things once? not likely. Procrastination is more like the norm.
But mail was great yesterday, got copies of Spin-Off, Knitters and my package from Hatchtown, wonderful drop spindle and a bit of lovely wool to play with. Today I got two hand made mezuzahs from Helen. should be all set.
Morning was just organizing and working through all of the Medical Rules of Engagement. Between the task force rules, regulations, national rules, work contracts etc there are guidelines on who we care for and who we don’t. We obviously take care of all life and death emergencies, then transfer as appropriate. We take care of our military, the other participating
militaries. After that it gets sticky. There are tons of other folks working down here – from contractors through various government agency people to UN personnel and IPTF
Went up to the NorPol BDE HQ for a planning meeting on an upcoming exercise. We all need practice to be good at what we do, and it is extremely nice to be able to piggy-back off someone else’s exercise, it just lends a whole lot more reality to the training and gives a better idea of where we still need improvement.
Lunch was great – breads, real bread, salads, lots of cheese and vegetables. I skipped the stew and the cold cuts, but it qualified as the best meal yet. pickled garlic, feta cheese, peppers … lots of great choices.
The meeting was, well a meeting. It ran per what I am use to through NATO working groups. You present the problem as a series of questions, have the folks break up into working groups, each tackle the problem rapidly – then present alternatives to the combined group. It was a great way for me to meet the planners of the different battalions of the NordPol and get a lot of exercise information at the same time.
Finally saw animals on the way back – lots of horse drawn wagons. According to Dr Rotmil, a horse is worth almost 2K DM, a lot of money in this land. Saw sheep, goats and chickens, have still not seen any thing remotely looking like cows. The devastation is even worse up close, burned out and rusted out cars just next to the road. Acres of fields roped off with yellow mine tape. Saw a lot of the Swedes out on patrol going both ways. Wood burning furnaces, by the amounts of wood piled up, women out in yards, doing washing in tubs. But I also saw a family walking along the road through the ZOS with the youngest on a bright yellow plastic tricycle happily peddling away, people rebuilding houses and cafes out in Doboj with customers relaxing at out door tables, drinking coffee.
Going to head off to my room – change into PT’s
Friday – 24 April 1998
Last night saw even more of my soldiers settling into their rooms and getting unpacked, the Chaplain ran a prayer meeting, the Medevac folks had to make a routine blood run over to Tuzla and the ER was quiet after about 10pm. I found out how easy it is to blow a fuse in the connex and that I am not tall enough to do the reset!
The practice drills for emergencies are going well and everyone’s head seems to be in the game.
Managed to get up at a reasonable time and go ride an exercycle for 30 minutes worth this morning, got cleaned up, breakfast and email done by 7:30 morning staff meeting. We have settled on a three times a week every major player to keep everyone informed of what is going on.
Knowing geography turns out to be important – we didn’t hear a bird go out – but this patient is coming in from Camp McGovern – which is north from here and likely the Medevac will fly from Slav Brod which is closer – pick up the patient and then come here – but the litter team is organized – now we just wait.
nice wander around day – got a chance to check in on a number of sections – people are really pitching in and improving the place – we are even going to do some self help with Brown and Root and get some stuff painted. Dirty peach colored walls – ugh.
Went by convoy over to Tuzla Main – Eagle Base for the 1830 stand up – battle up date
Until the last couple of days – I would have argued the point – but knowing that crowds are throwing things at both the Norwegians in one area and the Canadians in another sector over freedom of one or another group to hold a religious service does give me pause.
The weather was 70 degrees as we rolled out the gate, full battle rattle, magazines in weapons. Got to be the lead vehicle this time as my driver was the convoy commander. We maintain radio contact between the first and last vehicle and hand held with the middle two. Kind of the standard things you do to insure that you can track every one. Drivers here are less cautious or
sane than either the Portuguese in Lisbon or the Italians in Rome if that gives you a hint.
We go out Route New Jersey, then hang a left onto Route Ostrich. Saw a ton of people out side – working on gardens, having coffee at roadside cafe’s, walking along the road
Lots of repairs and construction – saw cows today, munching their supper at the end of a hand held rope while their owners stopped to chat. goats a few time, and a couple of naked sheep – so shearing time must have arrived.
I took our new dental surgeon with, so that he could meet and talk with the division surgeons staff, get an idea of his role in specific, what the task force medical staff does and what the division medical staff has for responsibilities. I headed off to the BUB and then grabbed him on the way back. We walked by the PX and stopped – the PX tour of Bosnia as I have mentioned earlier.
the ride back only took 30 or so minutes, much less traffic, but wilder drivers.
went down stairs, checked on a patient, saw the Norwegian team bring in the one from McGovern – they did launch from here to go and get him, now there is a crowd hanging out waiting to see what next.
The 2000 movie had just ended – Fargo was playing tonite. Seen it. The chaplain gave me a couple of photos from our trip up to Budapest of the Synagogue , the main wall, the front gate and the fountain.
got almost everything done today on the list – have a couple of visitors tomorrow – off to crash.
25 April 1998- server down
convinced my self to get up and go tackle the exercycle this morning – two
in a row! then read for a while before the 1030 multinational health professional meeting.
Had a different group of German physicians from Sarajevo this week, the Russian group, the new physician in from Estonia and the usual friendly group from the NordPole BDE.
Subject of the day – Mine injuries and the objects that produce them. Most of the EOD
Most mine injuries are a combination of blast injury combined with what ever fragments are either generated or kicked up. There are still somewhere between 4-6 million mines left in this country – ranging from 25gm anti-personnel mines to anti-tank mines that contain 6kg of explosive. Added to this challenge is the amount of UXO that is still being found, plus all the varieties of hand made explosive devices that are all too common.
VIP’s coming through including most of the command chain of the civil-military affairs folks. I have two civil affairs officers co-located with us, one US Reservist and one active Swede. Got a chance to explain to the brass coming through the mission of the medical task force and stress the importance of a continuing relationship
We are located in the Tuzla valley – about 6 km out of time. A city of over 100k, it has a history going back to Roman times documented, and obviously longer than that. Major industries here are brown coal and salt, lots of salt and there are still a number of wooded salt extraction towers standing. Just on the other side of the brown coal and power station is a Engineers dream <>!> or maybe I should say nightmare. There use to be an extensive chemical manufacturing plant. There is talk of it going active again, so we are looking at a visit to see what they are up to – products and all of that.
Tuzla was also the site, 25 May 1995 of a bombing in the central square that killed 71 young people and injured hundreds more. The memorial in the main square is simple a near by wall has pictures of all the dead and names. The youngest was about 15 with most being in their teens and 20’s. I am still having trouble understanding the hate and evil that fuels such a wanton destruction of life and the effort to create permanent rifts.
But then, it is obviously still happening, with the attempt to block a Catholic Mass in our sector a couple of days ago, the riot in the British sector yesterday and even more activity likely in the next couple of days. I can only hope that it is the last hurrah of the fanatics as they attempt to pull people back in who would rather rebuild their homes. But there are still thousands in refugee camps and even more internally displaced. I hope this is not the start of a summer of really ugliness.
Tomorrow looks like it should be a relatively quite day – going to try
To finish up packing, complete my support form, do some reading, finish up
a sock so it’s mate is no longer an orphan and think about taking out the
sewing machine. Monday sees the next influx of visitors.
26 April 1998- all is quiet
The weather today is gorgeous, sun shining, temperature above 70. Had a yard area full of folks out taking in the sun, relaxing, playing volley ball, polishing boots. One of the OR nurses is working on an afghan for her daughter, multicolor ripple, on the second of twelve skeins. I finished the pair of gansey socks from “a time to knit socks” and the first of a pair of green striped ones for George that had been half done for a couple of months.
Discovered the trick to the power problems in my room, the small stereo draws just enough power that I can listen to music OR run the transformer for the sewing machine. No fool, have asked for one of the smaller transformers to be mailed from home. sewed some doll clothes that have been cut out for six months. Fact is most of the stuff I brought with is partly done – so planning on going home with more done than new started.
Census in the hospital is only three at the present, one to head to Landstuhl, one next week Tues on her way to the states and the other Should return to duty soon.
EMT section has been steady but slow.
There is a group over in the MWR building playing one of the board war games that I remember from college – name escapes me – but it is basically battles across Europe.
Politically, things were much quieter today, with several rallies apparently canceled. Fine with me, I am not looking for events to get people hurt.
Got one of the mezuzah’s from Helen up at the hooch and will put the one up here at the office later tonite. Have chased folks out a couple of times already – figuring everyone needs a break.
Chopper just came in from Taszar, there were several people who wanted a ride just for the sake of the ride, even with no ground time. Gut wrenching experience, all the destruction, especially compared to seeing Hungary from the air. Except for the buildings, Hungary reminds me of Iowa and Wisconsin. large well kept fields, a variety of crops, tended fences, trees along the edges of roads and reasonable size fields.
I found my book from the NATO Crisis Management course last year. Part of the course included an excellent historical lecture by a retired Bundeswehr officer on the FRY
He went back to the times of the Roman Empire with its spread around the Mediterranean on both sides and up the straits. With the division between East and West in 395 CE saw a split between the two churches corresponding to what is today is Croatia Latin Church and the Eastern/Greek orthodox. If I remember rightly- he said that the influence of Rome lasted almost a hundred years longer.
The Balkans under went another massive change in 670->700 with the movement of Eastern and Slavic populations in from the areas of East Poland/Belarus/Ukraine areas. So by 700, according to him there were conflicting interests in the area and it started to tend to look toward the East more by 1000.
going to take a good look at the map I bought yesterday and trace out some of the migration paths.
tomorrow starts a series of visits from some planners from III Corps. Going to crash early tonite when the volley ball crowd heads to supper.
27 April 1998- visitors from III Corps
Made my self do it – got up, rode the bike, did email and got breakfast, all before the morning meeting.
Did a lot of simple housekeeping stuff this morning – dropped off and picked up laundry. Interesting experience having one’s laundry bag dumped out, the number of items of each picked up and counted and then dropped back in the bag. You wonder some times what the poor lady thinks, five sets of under wear and ten pairs of socks
unfair it was that the women working laundry in another section of the post had used this sections machines when their machines broke. And they hadn’t gotten paid any extra. Ok, asked the NorMedCoy commander, did you know that both contracts are paid, so why should it make any difference which washing machines? and that when you are paid by the hour, should it make a difference whose laundry you are washing.
He also said that this comes up every time he goes in there. Something about the two who work there that just can not let slights go. guess this place may have been good for teaching people how to carry grudges.
Got the usual lunch – one of these days I will have to write down the menu – just so that you see the choices. My lunch was rice, green beans and carrots, mushrooms and tomatoes. and, of course, a health bar.
What is a “health bar” aka “fitness bar”? you say. don’t ask, because for some reason we have all taken to calling the eskimo pie ice cream sandwiches…..
The III Corps surgeon, their G4 and a couple of other folks came from Eagle Main by bus. they were due in about 1430 and arrive 1 1/2 late. Interesting bus ride, no break downs, just lots of traffic. We gave them the run down on our operation, the who’s and why’s and the limits on numbers of folks. The III Corps surgeon and I date back to my 7th MEDCOM days (1988-1990) so we were also able to talk “the before the drawdown europe” and other
challenges of survival in the new army. my DCCS and I gave him the detailed tour of the facility and what all we thought about training and prep and what we would do different/better if we had the planning to do over.
it is hard to make some of the parallels – we are right next to the theater – they are seven hours time zone alone away, and on the other side of the ocean – things that worked for us will not necessarily work for them. We did suggest that they look really hard at force protection and convoy ops. clinical if they are pulling TOE soldiers, and TOE training for any professional staff.
It is good to have 6 months planning time – but it is barely enough.
Had my commanders call with the HHD TF folks, did the expectations, uniforms and playing and working well with others drill. people are still doing ok, but boredom has not completely set in.
it is time to crash, managed to reach my husband on the phone this morning and find that the new car is great and the kids are fine
I also need to find out the DSN for the Providence Navy Base so I can try and do a “morale” call to my daughter.
have a great day!
28 April 1998 Tuesday
We still have III Corps folks floating around somewhere, catching up on all the papers left behind by my predecessor’s and other misc. things.
We watch the news carefully, and the intel put out by the division on a daily basis. The tunnel that was blocked with “rioter” on both ends is the main road about 35km north of here that we use on the way to the NordPole HQ. Turns out that the locals lived in the tunnel for days at a time during the war, enough of a curve that it offered protection. would also believe
that once you were in- someone had to be protecting the heights above you – or you would be sniper bait when you tried to exit.
Involved supporting an exercise with the NordPole that will run another day, as we are the hospital for the area, anything that affects our sector, any casualty play involves us. It, again, is great practice to work with the countries we support in an exercise environment, find out any glitches in the system and leave us better able to do this kind of stuff for real, should we need to. The young Swedish role player today was interesting, spent time explaining a lot of his training and daily activities during the time he was playing “in surgery”. then went on to watch movies with a bunch of my folks until we were able to release him back to his unit.
Movies are a big social event, 2000 movie every night out of the lending library, composed on anything that has been donated permanently or on loan from whomever is around. I am not sure how the selection or two of the night is chosen, but I am not a movie person. Apparently there are some serious favorites and have been told that I need to watch Groundhogs day a
Couple of times to have a real understanding of this experience.
Had a chance to talk with the 159th
members of the team, but without the two commo techs who maintain the computers,
phones and radios in the ships, they go no where.
Would up not having to brief the III Corps folks, they got tied up on the other side of the base, but NorMedCoy was kind enough to brief the III Corps surgeon on their capabilities and demonstrate the abilities of the SISU to him.
The med and log folks were then headed up to Taszar – as it looks like they will take over the medical piece up there as well in the fall. Hoo-ah!
We start the redeployment screens down here next week – going to be interesting. As a result of a lot of the questions after Saudi, the DoD directed that anyone deployed more than 30 days under go a medical screen on the way out of theater. Sounds simple? just ask a few questions, draw a blood sample so that a serum sample can be on file, administer a short
psychological screen and let the folks go if there is not a problem. A follow up is done in 30 days or so, and a TB skin test at 90 days. As you can believe this has turned into a major challenge.
Since this theater started, every one
afternoon was quiet – got through more of the papers, we are rapidly filling up with patients, all of them with good need to be here. It is honestly nice to have a variety of challenges, and to be able to work out the stratevac to get people home with out having to do it for the first time under emergency conditions.
going to grab some supper and go back to my room and do a bit more sewing. managed another 11 miles on the bike this morning – when I get it worked up to a bit more – will increase the resistance level. what fun – lets me eat an ice cream bar a day!
29 April 1998- Cows
This morning was taken up by the exercycle, morning report, a bunch more meetings and lunch. and of course email. My ccmail account is now on forward which is dumping a lot of mail into my box.
Lots of patients in this morning, several admissions and pending transfers out of theater on Friday morning on the scheduled flight. we have been busier in the last week than the previous folks were in a couple of months. They did a great job, left a lot of good will behind them and some really good connections and procedures which has made our life much easier.
We put some pax on a Norwegian vehicle going north – I had soldiers who either needed or wanted to get to Slav Brod and the Nords had to go up and meet some vehicles coming back down. The PFC in the group just signed back in and had a great time on the trip. Said the country is beautiful in spite of the destruction, and driving back in one of the Norwegian small
trucks was also a good deal. I also sent one of the pharmacy and lab folks up to offer any assistance and to check out things on the ground and the status of the move to new facilities.
Took a convoy over to Tuzla Main for a remembrance service that I was invited to. well, the email date, that we called and confirmed did not match the scheduled date on the posters. so arrived a day early. am not going to be going back tomorrow as I have to be down at the Ministry of Health at the time the meeting is scheduled.
Stopped by the Division Surgeons office and discussed some of the things that we are working on in common, like redeployment screening. Found out about a meeting on Fri that we are inviting ourselves to, concerning future potential locations for the hospital. Decided not to stay for the BUB as it has been raining and we went over in two vehicles. need four when it is dark, even in the Tuzla valley and I was not willing to push it.
Saw cows on the way back. One set of three adults and three yearlings that certainly looked like Holsteins. Another three adults calmly walking single file down the side of the road like they knew where they were going. No person in sight – so I hope in fact they were headed home. This group looked like a brown cross between a Guernsey and a Holstein, no black at all, but some weird white and brown splotches.
The chickens seemed to be out in force and the kids looked like they were returning from school, bunches with backpacks, all over the roads. No such thing as side walks in the rural areas.
going to try to pull some files off this thing with the A: drive, or maybe get some supper. Have some patients that we have not seen so far, sometimes it really takes people a while to get here.
The bus over from Eagle base goes the long route and takes 2 1/2 hours, the return is 45 minutes.
sleep – yes that sounds like a great idea.
30 April 1998—Valborgsmassoafton
It really is true – 30 minutes on the bike in the morning and nothing worse can happen to me for the rest of the day – I have overcome the worst thing that I have to do – well along with the required push-ups and sit-ups that is.
Went with Dr Rotmil down to the main Hospital in Tuzla this morning to meet one of the directors. For us it was to be a hello, for them it was a target of opportunity. It seems that they have a partnership of some kind with the Buffalo General Hospital, with various assorted agreements and funding involved, but they are trying to re-establish a cardio-vascular surgery
service. The request to us was for assistance in obtaining a couple of needed pieces of power generation equipment.
Danced sideways on this – but they need 50 hertz, and all of our generators and UPS are 60 hertz. So gave the specifications to my civil affairs comrades when I got back and they will research out through their channels and see who else is working on this.
Also got a chance to stop for a cup of coffee with the head of the microbiology for a few minutes and discuss both life during and after the war, she now has a son living in Charleston for six years. her daughter is 18 and studying. she joked that one of the things she did during the war was to develop hair colorings, based on some of her knowledge of lab stains, but
many were oxygen sensitive – so the directions came with a warning to use all at once or suffer interesting colors as a consequence.
The general who was suppose to visit this afternoon spent enough time over at the RSS that he would up bypassing us completely. no tears, but would have been nicer to have figured this out ahead of time.
This afternoon I was to be in three places at once – my DCCS went down to the Ministry of Health Meeting, no one made the Holocaust memorial service
Now to me – a “medal parade” I would think is an award ceremony. After this evening – I think the term is used to describe what ever the planner of the event wishes it to be. Was that the Cheshire Cat in Alice who says “it means exactly what I mean it to, no more, no less?”
Turned out we were due there at 1730 and rolled in, the NorMedCoy commander and I with at least 10 minutes to spare. We did the mandatory mingling in the Polar Bear Lounge
Turned out the evening was in honor of King Carl XVI Gustav’s birthday
So following a few beverages,
to happily get through a couple of baked potatoes, added the hollandaise sauce, tzaiki and a ton of salads to my plate. The Deputy did the toast to his king and to the other heads of state.
Water is so wonderful. but it was red wine, which I normally skip anyway. Then there was a lot of eating, cognac for those who indulge, coffee and an ice cream cake.
It is now almost 2000. We all troop out toward the bonfire. You did expect a bonfire, yes?
I collect the keys for the vehicle. The deputy
On order, torches are lit, and two of the soldiers light long fuses that head toward a 10 foot high pile of all sorts of lumber, branches, etc that looks like it is just waiting for a torch. The fuses start the fire, then the two add their torches to a few places, just to make sure that there
is a really roaring fire.
As I watch the fire, I can’t help but think the difference. I would
1) not be allowed to have a bonfire
2) would have to have posted fire guards with extinguishers
3) have to post warnings and block off the area
4) not allowed because of the air pollution
Anyway – there were flames reaching high, showers of sparks and it burned for almost an hour.
There were two songs song by their “choir” – formed that afternoon especially for the occasion, the mandatory speech about spring. It ended with a trumpet solo by one of their sergeants.
Svein and I stopped by the MP commander’s location for a few minutes of conversation and a discussion of if it was possible to move the swimming pool from the Blue Factory to his location. Regretfully, we think that it is such old plastic that, pulled from its liner, it will crumble. They will have to perhaps settle for keeping their volley ball area in the middle
of their connex’s.
The ride back was “interesting”. 53 km. so figure an hour. Had rained a bit, the Bosnian drivers are either fast or slow, never the speed posted. I decided to head out through Doboj rather than down the gravel back road. City looked pretty quiet, but lots of pedestrians with dark clothes and no sidewalks.
Local Poliezi, just sitting and looking. about 30 minutes out of town, we hit the first Check Point. as we got closer, we could see that it was the Swedes, they spotted the van with the red cross and waved us around the cars in front of us, moved the blocks and let us through. Didn’t see anything in particular, but it was a couple of SISU’s and their crews. Went through the tunnel that was blocked the other day with out incident. A bit farther down, another Swedish CP, this one looked busy, but on a motion to move through I am not staying to rubber neck.
Anther 10 km’s passed a couple of SISU’s underway, then hit a third CP. Drove through a couple of towns, people out and about in the town and 30+ cars parked along the side of the road.
Finally got to the turn off about 2245 and headed off the main road down the ramp to route New Jersey. Got a few strange looks driving in the gate, but came right in, did the usual stopped and cleared the weapons drill and then came into the compound and parked.
Nothing going on out there tonite – but sounds like pre-emptive checkpoints to control the roads and prevent buses of people bent on making trouble somewhere else.
There are a couple of refugee camps near here. Our translator today said that there were about 120k+ in Tuzla prior to the war, now the numbers are different because of the refugees, and it is uncertain. It certainly is the largest city in this corner of Bosnia. There is some left in the way of handcrafts – BosFam has been well established for several years, with a major cooperative here. A large number of donations from various Scandinavian countries have supplied the yarn needed to weave the rugs they are making and the sweaters the women are designing and knitting. “Meeting the locals” is really no longer possible in this war torn country, villages are no longer together, peoples and families have been torn apart and
displaced. Music is as Westernized here as it is in Berlin or Paris. So much is lost when war tears through a land.
‘Tis very late and morning will come all too early.
Ah – poggie bait – a military term for junk food. one brings all sorts of things with that fit into the extra food groups – sweet, grease, caffeine and chocolate.