3d Battalion - 141st Infantry
Texas Army Guard's 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry served six months of peacekeeping duty under the 29th Infantry Division along with soldiers from the active Army's 10th Mountain Division at Forward Operating Base McGovern, just south of the city of Brcko.
It wasn't exactly perfect, but the Lone Star soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry made it through the first leg of peacekeeper training, gaining some knowledge of what they will be doing once they are in the "box." Citizen-soldiers of the Weslaco-based Company C and the Laredo-based Company B were tested on scenarios that they could encounter when they deploy to Bosnia-Herzegovina with the Virginia Army National Guard 29th Infantry Division (Light) as part of NATO Stabilization Force 10. These scenarios included inspecting weapons storage sites, resettling refugees and setting up and manning checkpoints.
The Valley Battalion took up residence at Camp McGovern, near the multi-ethnic city of Brcko in the American northeast sector. At McGovern, the Texans assumed security missions, performing escort duty in Humvees and serving as part of a rapid reaction force in Bradley Infantry Fighting vehicles. Attacks on American peacekeepers in Bosnia rarely occur, and navigating the narrow Bosnian roads while on patrol could be their greatest concern. The roads are probably the peacekeepers' real potential danger. The roads are very narrow and no one has to have a drivers license, so anyone can drive - no matter what their age or physical condition.
To practice driving in the harsh Bosnian winter, the Valley Battalion was sent to Fort Drum, New York, to learn to navigate in something most of these soldiers had never seen before - snow and ice. And while traffic conditions are a huge concern for the soldiers, relations between Bosnia's ethnic groups remain volatile.
Tension and open hostility among Croats, Serbs and Bosnian Muslims has subsided since the first NATO-backed American peacekeepers crossed the Sava River from Croatia in December 1995. But while there has been relative peace in the region, nationalists are still a vocal group, with the ability to sway normally law-abiding people into angry mobs.
That's where the Texans come in. Their task is to provide a safe and secure environment for the continued implementation of the civil aspects of the General Framework Agreement for Peace, also known as the Dayton Peace Accord. It's a charge they back with their war fighting skills and the powerful presence of Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles.
The Texas soldiers received a somewhat dubious welcome from their Mississippi hosts, mostly fellow Guard members stationed here, who acted as Bosnian Muslim and Serb role players. One of the Texans' most difficult scenarios was controlling unruly mobs of both ethnic groups. In one scenario, the peacekeepers were tasked to escort "Muslim" refugees returning to a village to inspect the condition their pre-war homes. While the convoy of Humvees that was escorting the bus pulled into the village, they were greeted by a mob of angry "Serbs." The Texans lined up in a protective posture in front of the bus, while the Serb actors, wielding sticks, shouted for the Muslims to leave. The scene brought some disorder among the Texans. But they persevered and the scenario ended relatively well.
Not everything went according to plan, however. One scenario involved the setting up of a hasty checkpoint, stringing concertina wire at a bridge to restrict movement through. Serb role players quickly enveloped the checkpoint and within minutes, the guards were overwhelmed. Once the Serbs had broken through, the observer controllers called time out and the scenario was replayed again. This time however, the lesson was learned the first time, which was moving the concertina over the bridge, rather than at the end of it - to stop the Serbs.
The month of June 2001 was a whirlwind for the Valley soldiers. They returned to Fort Drum to conduct lanes training for two weeks, then immediately headed to Fort Polk to face their toughest test. There, actual Serbo-Croat speakers, many of whom are refugees from the Bosnian war, were the role players. The pace will be faster and the grading on the exercise tougher. Overall the troops did well. and all of their requirements were satisfied.
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