Sunday, October 31, 2021

Bosnia 2001: Pivotal Mobilization in the History of the Georgia National Guard Part II: The Mission Begins

By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard


Camp Comanche April 24, 2001. Photo courtesy of Col. Alexander McLemore.

Mobilization to Bosnia

On March 12, 2001, more than 300 Georgia National Guard Soldiers departed Hunter Army Airfield Bound for Bosnia.[1] Command Sgt. Major Walter Kegley, senior enlisted leader of the 48th Infantry Brigade recalled the movement.

“The brigade begin departure from Fort Stewart with our (advance party) personnel leaving in February,” Kegley recalled. “Military busses were used to transport soldiers from FSGA to Hunter Army Airfield at Savannah, Ga. Commercial air was used to fly to Bosnia.”[2]

Private 1st Class Marc Massey of Company B, 148th Forward Support Battalion recalled the first leg of travel.

“I remember being excited to land in Shannon Ireland, even if it was just in the airport for two hours,” recalled Massey. “For me, it was neat because this was the first time I stepped on foreign soil.” [3]

As Warrant Officer 1 Ralph Lovett recalled, the excitement rapidly turned to dismay upon landing in Ireland.

“I seem to remember the flight got to Shannon very late and the bars were all closed," noted Lovett. “We were devastated. Lots of nose prints were left on the bar windows. Not a drop of beer to be had.”[4]

After a brief layover, the Soldiers boarded a plane for the final leg of their journey which

Command Sgt. Major James Nelson, senior enlisted leader of 2-121 on an inclement 
day at Camp Comanche June 12, 2001. Photo courtesty of Col. Alexander McLemore.
took them to Tuzla. Massey recalls the arrival.

“We landed at Tuzla early in the morning and were thrown onto minibuses and transported over to (Camp) Comanche where we were sheltered in GP mediums for about a week before we were allowed into our C huts.” [5]

Camp Comanche was just a short drive from Tuzla. Major General Tom Carden, then a major and S-3 of the 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment also recalled the initial travel to the Camp.

“We in-processed very quickly and promptly deployed to locations that were a little different from what we were told during the pre-deployment site surveys. We adjusted quickly,” said Carden. “The 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry along with the 148th Forward Support Battalion were placed at Camp Comanche. First Battalion, 121st Infantry along with the Brigade headquarters element were placed at Camp Eagle. They were co-located with the 3rd Infantry Division Headquarters.”[6]

Company A, 2-121, meanwhile occupied Forward Operating Base Connor. Connor was located approximately 100 kilometers southeast of Camp Comanche near the town of Bratunac which was bound to the east by the Drina River.[7]

Assuming the Mission

Foreshadowing the future role of the Georgia Army National Guard’s 3rd Infantry Division Main Command Post Operational Detachment, Citizen-Soldiers augmented Multi-National Division-North headquarters operations. Major General Walter L. Sharp commanded MND-N with Brig. Gen. Robley Rigdon, commander of the 48th Infantry Brigade, serving as deputy commander. Major John Cole assumed command of Headquarters and Headquarters Company and Command Sgt. Major Walter Kegley assumed responsibility as senior enlisted leader of Task Force Eagle ground forces.

“The outgoing CSM for SFOR 8, who I was replacing did an excellent job of in-briefing me on his duties and responsibilities and what to expect once in country,” recalled Kegley. “No major changes occurred during my tenure.”[8]

On March 26, 2001, Lt. Col. Reed B. Dunn, commander, 2-121, assumed command of Task Force Eagle from 1st Battalion 64th Armor Regiment 3rd Infantry Division at Camp Comanche.[9] The 148th Logistics Task Force, Lt. Col. Larry McClendon, commanding, assumed the mission of supplying and equipping the mission March 31 from the 26th Logistics Task Force.[10] Authority for base camp security passed from 4-64 to 1-121 under the watchful eye of Lt. Col. Tim Romine April 2, 2001.[11]

Soldiers of 1st Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment secure an entrance to Camp Comanche April 24, 2001. Photo courtesy of Col. Alexander McLemore

Securing Comanche

As part of base security mission, 1-121 personnel provided force protection at all entry points at Comanche where as many as 350 Bosnian citizens and 150 vehicles could enter the post per shift.[12] Simultaneously, 1-121 personnel conducted roving patrols within the base and on the perimeter and maintained a constant vigil from a network of guard towers that dotted the wall surrounding Comanche.[13] Vigilance was key throughout the rotation and was maintained by rotating security personnel through multiple positions per shift and by incorporating realistic training scenarios. On May 5, a multi-national mass-casualty training scenario incorporated role players to simulate multiple bomb detonations on Camp Dobol. Medical personnel from Company C, 48th Forward Support Battalion rushed to render aid to multiple victims and establish triage[14]

Soldiers of the Turkish Battalion also worked with 1-121 to familiarize themselves with the Camp Comanche area of operations. A visit to the camp in May culminated with a joint presence patrol conducted by Turkish Soldiers and a platoon of Company A, 1-121st led by 2nd Lt. Billy Chau.[15]

Building Bridges

Company C, 648th Engineer Battalion, commanded by Capt. Robert Utlaut, was pressed into service early in the Lukavac area reconstructing two bridges. The bridge reconstruction projects provided much greater capacity to allow materials to reach remote villages devastated by war. With the majority of houses damaged in Potocani and Blagojevici, the ability to deliver heavy loads of construction materials was key to the reconstruction effort.[16] The engineers would again be called to ply their trade repairing a Bailey Bridge over the Drina River near the town of Kuslat 30 minutes from FOB Connor. When complete, the bridge had the capacity to hold 30 tons.[17]

Peace Keeping and Demilitarization

Second Lieutenant Alexander McLemore, serving as battle captain for 2-121 recalled the struggles of maintaining situational awareness with upwards of 35 patrols out in sector at any given time. Part of the challenge came from terrain restrictions imposed upon Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System communications which prompted the use of hilltop signal relay stations.

Communications equipment in the 2-121 TOC May 12, 2001. Photo courtesy of Col. Alexander McLemore.

Patrols provided MND-N with community sensing and intelligence while also serving to identify and locate weapons caches for confiscation or destruction. Warrant Officer 1 Ralph Lovett was assigned as the Joint Military Commission compliance special projects officer and had worked with the Turkish Battalion Task Force on a number of large-scale weapons destruction efforts.

“We used the (Bosnia-Herzegovina) Steel facilities to chop up and melt down the weapons,” Lovett recalled. “Convoys of trucks came in from all over the MND-N area filled with confiscated weapons.” For these projects, Lovett worked with Turkish EOD with Turkish MP units providing security.

But not all weapons found were confiscated and destroyed by MND-N Soldiers. Lovett was confronted with the unique question of how to handle weapons housed in museums in Zenica.

“This site was really only just an officer’s club with a small museum,” recalled Lovett. “The mortars in the museum made it fall into the heavy weapons storage site category by NATO.” Lovett asked if the weapons could be demilitarized rather than destroyed so they could remain on display; however, he was informed that demilitarization was not recognized by NATO and the Dayton Peace Accord as a status for weapons.

“I proposed that NATO adopt the US ATF definition of de-militarization of small arms and destructive devices, said Lovett. I submitted my proposal, and it was accepted…” Lovett supervised the demilitarization project with the TBTF beginning May 3. The result was the removal of a of a heavy-weapons storage site from the list of sites identified by MND which allowed the weapons to remain on display in local museums.

Wishmasters at Work

Photo courtesy of Col. William Dent.

Keeping the patrols rolling was the purview of the 148th Logistics Task Force. The LTF operated multiple maintenance shops at Eagle Base and Camp McGovern.[18] While most of the maintenance work was done on the M114 up-armored HMMWV, the 148th also maintained five-ton trucks, heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

Major William Dent, executive officer of the 148th FSB observed some of the differences in expectations from train up to the reality on the ground in Bosnia.

“We had practiced field training (and) operations such as establishing and jumping TOCs, relocating FLEs and MCPs, etc., but, when we arrived at Camp Comanche we were housed in hard fixed barracks with hard fixed latrines, gyms, MWR facilities, great road structure, etc.”[19]

Contractors maintained warehouse logistics systems, dining facilities and much of the installation management allowing the 148th to stay mission focused.

“It worked very well,” Dent recalled.

Initially a small-arms repair specialist with the 148th, Massey received a new opportunity in Bosnia.

“Captain Elhers (commander of Company B, 148th FSB) approached me and asked if I would be interested in being (assigned to the information management office),” said Massey. “I had to ask what that was. When he explained it was taking care of computers, etc. I jumped at the chance. I wanted to be able to come back home with a little more practical knowledge than I had when I left. My job allowed me to travel around Bosnia and interact with people that I would never have even thought to speak to.”

Summer Transitions

As Massey transitioned to his new role the Army was going through transitions of its own. On June 14, 2001, the Army adopted the black beret as its standard headgear for the utility uniform.[20] The beret remained the standard for ten years until the Army returned to the patrol cap in 2011.[21] Also in 2001, the Army replaced the more than two-decade old recruiting slogan “Be All You Can Be” with “An Army of One.[22] If the beret proved to be a hard sell, “An Army of One” fared even worse and was replaced in just five years by “Army Strong.”

Georgia National Guard Soldiers on patrol in Bosnia June 26, 2001. Photo courtesy of Col. Alexander McLemore

Half a world away from the uniform and slogan changes, Camp Comanche was the scene of a conference between 2-121 and representatives of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The June 12 conference of Battalion and brigade-level leaders from multiple nations provided a forum to discuss weapon storage site consolidation.[23]  The conference coincided with the end of the Operation Harvest’s “spring cleaning,” a campaign running from May 15-June 15 dedicated to the reporting and removal of weapons. Whereas previous efforts had been SFOR-led, an emphasis of the SFOR-9 rotation was transferring process ownership to local authorities. Major John King, chief of operations for the 3rd ID, and an Atlanta Police Officer, called the program a unifying effort which drew participation across different ethnicities.[24] During the spring-cleaning campaign, MND-N collected more than 100 weapons, 23,000 rounds of ammunitions and nearly 800 grenades.

The 48th Infantry Brigade had reached the midpoint of its Bosnia deployment, but many missions remained including the dedication of a memorial honoring the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. These missions and the impact of September 11, 2001 will be recounted in the next chapter of the Bosnia retrospective.

[1] Jingle Davis. “Georgia Troops Heading to Bosnia.” Atlanta Journal Constitution, March 12, 2001, 1.


[4] Ralph Lovett interview September 23, 2021.

[5] Marc Massey interview September 30, 2021.


[6] Tom Carden interview September 20, 2021.


[7] Charles Bennett Interview October 27, 2021.

[8] Walter Kegley Sr. interview September 30, 2021.


[9] Noreen Feeney. “New Command Arrives at Camp Comanche.” Talon. April 7, 2001, 8.


[10] Noreen Feeney. “Logistics Task Force Transfers Authority.” Talon. April 7, 2001, 10.


[11] Christopher D. Carney. “Eagle Base Now in 1-121 IN’s Hands.” Talon. April 7, 2001, 9.


[12] Grant L. Calease. “Gate Keepers Force Protections Front Line. Talon. May 12, 2001, 5.


[13] Lewis M. Jilburn. “All Along the Watchtower.” Talon. May 12, 2001, 9.


[14] T. S. Jarmusz. “Camp Dobol States Multinational Mass-Casualty Evacuation.” Talon. May 12, 2001, 6-7.


[15] Grant L. Calease. “Turkish Soldiers Experience Camp Comanche.” Talon. May 26, 2001, 8-9.


[16] Daniel W. Lucas. “648th Engineers Assist Community.” Talon. May 19, 2001, 11.


[17] T. S. Jarmusz. “U.S., Bosnian Serb Troops Bridge Drina.” Talon. June 2, 2001, 5,

[18] Grant L. Calease. “148th LTF Keeps Humvees Humming.” Talon. May 26, 2001, 11.


[19] William Alan Dent interview September 23, 2021.


[20] Lewis Hilburn. “Turning Heads to Beret History.” Talon. June 16, 2001.


[21] Lance Bacon. “Army dumps beret as official ACU headgear.” Army Times. June 13, 2011.


[22] “L. D. Gottardi. “Army’s Old Slogan was All it Could Be.” Talon. June 30, 2001, 4.


[23] Grant Calease. “AF in BiH Meets with 2-121 Commanders” Talon. June 23, 2001, 5.


[24] Catherine Farrell. “Weapons Turn-In Program a Success. Talon. June 30, 2001, 11.

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