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    Wis. soldiers support Bosnian mission

    WI soldiers support Bosnian mission

    Photo By 1st Sgt. James Wagner | Pfc. Koty Slough, left, and Staff Sgt. Marvin Hannah, participate in a flag retirement...... read more read more

    CAMP BUTMIR, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

    06.14.2012

    Story by Sgt. 1st Class James Wagner 

    172nd Public Affairs Detachment

    CAMP BUTMIR, Bosnia-Herzegovina - While the majority of Wisconsin Army National Guard's 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade deployed to Kosovo to support NATO peacekeeping efforts, a smaller contingent found themselves in another Balkan state entirely.

    Last year, as approximately 300 Wisconsin Guard soldiers mobilized to support the Kosovo Force mission at Camp Bondsteel, five Badger State soldiers found themselves flying to Camp Butmir in Sarajevo, Bosnia- Herzegovina.

    The five took over positions supporting NATO Headquarters in Sarajevo and its European Union Force, the international peacekeeping effort that began in 2005 when active peace enforcement operations as part of the Stabilization Force ended in the region.

    NHQSA has three primary missions: advise the Bosnia government on defense reforms in order to integrate with the European Union, oversee Camp Butmir, and oversee NATO personnel in Sarajevo.

    According to Lt. Col. Michael Smith, U.S. Balkans National Support Element commander, the Wisconsin soldiers at Camp Butmir support all U.S. personnel to include Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

    "As European Command's only direct reporting unit in the Balkans area of responsibility, the NSE protects and executes U.S. interests on behalf of the geographic combatant commander," he said.

    In addition to sharing the same geographical area - the Balkan Peninsula - the missions in Kosovo and Bosnia share many similarities. NATO peacekeeping forces in both regions are there to prevent further bloodshed from happening in the wake of ethnic cleansing campaigns in the 1990s, while implementing measures to ensure subsequent flare ups don't occur in the region.

    Only in the details are the mission requirements different. KFOR's primary responsibilities include actively providing a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement; EUFOR's mission is to oversee the military implementation of the 1995 Dayton Agreement, which ended the war between Muslim Bosniaks, Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats.

    Pfc. Koty Slough from Oconto, Wis., a postal clerk who works in the National Support Element at Camp Butmir, said the people of Sarajevo and surrounding communities find the NATO presence here crucial to their country's long-term well-being.

    "Our military presence in Bosnia leaves the people with a feeling of security and comfort, knowing that if they needed help we would be able to assist," he said.

    Slough is one of several Wisconsin soldiers working in the NSE, supporting U.S. forces stationed at Camp Butmir. In addition to postal service, they provide logistics and personnel support during their year-long deployment.

    Soldiers from more than 20 countries are deployed to Camp Butmir, and like the many challenges posed at Camp Bondsteel, where Wisconsin soldiers in Kosovo are headquartered with Multinational Battle Group East, language differences are one of the biggest obstacles to properly executing a mission.

    Capt. Jay Wilson from Helenville, Wis., logistics chief at NHQSA, has been on several deployments around the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Deployed soldiers work extensively with their sister service counterparts, like the Navy and Air Force, to accomplish a mission.

    Working at a NATO headquarters, however introduces another level of joint service when it's in a coalition environment. With more than 20 nations from around the world involved, finding a common language can be difficult. Fortunately for Americans, English is the predominant language spoken around the world, though individual skill levels in the language vary wildly from soldier to soldier at NATO.

    "I find a lot of the people come here not knowing a lot of English; it takes time for them to get use to speaking it," Wilson said. "There are some misunderstandings before they get used to it."

    Language barriers aside, NHQSA soldiers find common ground with projects over and above their mandated mission that help the people of Bosnia. Many take the time to work on projects that better assist the country assimilate into the European Union, whether it's visiting an international elementary school or raising money for disabled people.

    "Several people have come up to me and said, 'hey, thank you for being here, it means a lot to our people,'" Slough said. "A friend told me once, whether good or bad, you will leave this city a different person. Cliche or not, I know now that is true and only in a positive way, for me and for those I have come to know."

    For the soldiers of the 157th MEB, whether they went to Kosovo or Bosnia, that's a sentiment likely true in both regions.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 06.14.2012
    Date Posted: 06.26.2012 05:38
    Story ID: 90584
    Location: CAMP BUTMIR, BA

    Web Views: 200
    Downloads: 0

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