News: Bosnians mark end of mission
By Maj. Craig Heathscott
39th IBCT PAO, MND-B
BAGHDAD, Iraq – In a ceremony at Hope Chapel on Victory Base Complex Nov. 29, a
Contingent of military forces from Bosnia-Herzegovina was honored by their coalition partners for their service in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The historic event marked the end of a commitment that started in June 2005.
"This is a historic day for the nation of Iraq and for the nation of Bosnia-Herzegovina," said Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter, deputy commanding general for operations, Multi-National Corp – Iraq, who was speaking on behalf of Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commanding general of MNC-I. "It is also a bittersweet day since we must farewell a long time partner of the Coalition, but in doing so recognize that their departure represents a great success that has been achieved here in Iraq. Success that could not be achieved without their support."
While the Bosnian-Herzegovina troop numbers were less than 150 soldiers, the commitment was seemingly larger considering the conflicts within their own country.
"Bosnia-Herzegovina has recently come out of a tragic conflict," said Brig. Gen. Stamenko Novakovic, commander of the 6th Infantry Brigade Bosnia-Herzegovina Armed Forces. "The country is not fully recovered ... but we understand the situation in Iraq, and the suffering of the Iraqi people. We found strength to contribute to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"We hope the Soldiers from Bosnia-Herzegovina met their tasks with success and fulfilled your and our expectations and justified invested efforts. To the brotherly people of Iraq we wish that just like in our country that you can overcome every trouble and advance peace and prosperity," he said.
Making up the Bosnia-Herzegovina contingent were two forces – armed forces security and the explosive ordnance disposal units. The explosive ordinance units provided support to Multi-National Forces – West and Multi-National Division – Central. Meanwhile, the infantry element of the Bosnian-Herzegovina forces provided support on Victory Base Complex for Multi-National Division – Baghdad.
Working side-by-side with members of 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment of the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, MND-B, the Bosnian-Herzegovina Soldiers assisted in base defense by working in tower security operations as well as internal presence patrols. A total of 49 Bosnian-Herzegovina soldiers added to Company B, 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment, 39th IBCT, force protection efforts on VBC.
"Our biggest concern at first was the language barrier; however, quickly realized they had six or seven Soldiers that spoke passable English, which was far better than what we spoke of their language," said Lt. Col. Brad Cox, commander, 1st Bn., 153rd Inf. Regt. "Soldiers on both sides showed a lot of patience, which led to the building of a great relationship in a short time period. Ultimately, the Bosnian-Herzegovina Soldiers performed side-by-side with our troops, and their performance was no different. Capt. (Dragan) Malic' (Security Unit Leader) is an outstanding officer, and I rate him against any Soldier in the Army or the world for that matter."
As the ceremony progressed, Malic' and Maj. Ibro Alispahic, commander of troops, were presented the United States Army Commendation Medal for their service. As Col. Kendall Penn, commander, 39th IBCT, MND-B, pinned the medal to Malic's uniform, the two Soldiers, from opposite sides of the world, rendered a salute that symbolized the bond between the Coalition Forces in Iraq.
Following the two awards to Malic and Alsipahic, Penn and Command Sgt. Maj. Steven Veazey, senior enlisted leader, 39th IBCT, presented the Army Achievement Medal to all of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Soldiers for services rendered Aug. 27 to Dec. 2008.
"Today was a significant event that the 39th brigade is proud to be associated with," said Penn. "The 'Bowie Brigade' has worked with a lot of professional Soldiers, both national and international, since arriving in country in March, and I can tell you these are some of the finest Soldiers we've had the privilege of working with here in Iraq. I'm convinced that the struggles they've faced in their own country have made them an even stronger contributor to the future of Iraq—they understand the challenges faced by Iraq."
Addressing the Bosnian-Herzegovina Soldiers, Maj. Gen. Khudaier Abass of the Iraqi Army, Multi-National Forces – Iraq CJ5 Coalition, pointed out that while he spoke English he didn't want anything lost to translation. "I will speak in Arabic this time as I want to mean every single word that I'm going to say. In English, I can't express it in the way I want to feel it from my heart toward our friends, our brothers from Bosnia."
And while his words had to be translated twice, through English and then Bosnian, his heartfelt thanks from the nation of Iraq seemed clear.
"On behalf of the Iraqi Army and all Iraqi people I give thanks and admiration. Bosnia has been through similar circumstances as Iraq is going through now," Abass said. "Bosnia today provides support and help to our country. We will never forget this help the Iraqi people, the next generation—for what the Bosnian Armed Forces did for Iraq. Iraq is moving forward in the democratic process, development and reconstruction. All of this is due to the help of the Bosnian friendly forces.
Abass paused for a moment, and then provided an invitation of the soldiers in the room to one day come back to Iraq—as a guest.
"God willing, we will meet in the near future in Iraq, and at that time, you and your family will be our guest," he said. "I wish Bosnia and its' people prosperity and progress and may God help the Coalition Forces and their families."