Sgt. William Baumer of Fergus Falls, Minn. (second from right) and Spc. Eric Kreiner of Andover, Minn., both 1/34 Brigade Combat Team Soldiers (The Redbulls), stand in formation with Bosnian Soldiers during an awards ceremony for the Bosnians May 27 at Camp Adder, Iraq. Baumer and Kreiner were among several BCT Soldiers providing security for the Bosnian EOD Soldiers.
Members of a Bosnian and Herzegovina explosive ordnance disposal unit move an unexploded ordnance Feb. 28 while on a mission to destroy a stash of Iraqi artillery in Asal Belly, east of Camp Echo, in Ad Diwaniyah, Iraq. U.S. Army Courtesy photo
Sgt. 1st Class Stojan Bozic, and Sgt. 1st Class Dalibor Kospic, both explosive ordnance experts for the Army Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, load artillery shells into crates during a UXO sweep near Tallil
Troops with the Army Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, prepare the day's find for detonation after a UXO sweep near Tallil
The explosive ordnance disposal unit prepares to explode a stash of Iraqi artillery found in Asal Belly, east of Camp Echo, in Ad Diwaniyah, Iraq, Feb. 28. U.S. Army Courtesy photo
Col Robert Susac of the Bosnia and Herzegovina army said of Iraq, "There are lessons to be learned from my country. First, it (democracy) takes time. We were in the same situation -- worse! Even after the genocide, we are able to work together now." He reminds the Iraqi that they had three different groups of people with differing religions, languages, alphabets and cultures to reconcile and embrace democratic reforms.
Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina are partners in the Coalition, helping Iraq embrace democracy and combat insurgents - a process that took a costly toll on Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Soldiers share stories of their struggle for independence with Iraqis, a common thread which has woven friendships between them.
Susac said, "You can replace a car, a house, your belongings, but you cannot buy a new family member. We must not live in the past. You can't change the past." If Iraqis think about improving the lives of their families, change will take place. "Try to provide a better life - think about building a democracy - and understand it is a very long process. Look at what happened in my country. There is always hope. Terrorism is not the way people should solve problems."
A decade after civil war left thousands of unexploded bombs scattered throughout their homeland, the Bosnia and Herzegovina forces are known for their expertise in EOD - Explosive Ordinance Disposal. It is a crucial mission, because each piece of ammunition could become a potential IED - Improvised Explosive Device or react as a land mine. Both kill Iraqis and Coalition Forces. Their mission is to remove all UXO - Unexploded Ordinance.
The Bosnia and Herzegovina forces are on an intensely personal mission. They have seen firsthand in their homeland the results of the UXO. "A lot of children in my country lost their limbs, lost their lives, because they were playing with those items scattered all around," said Sgt 1st Class Almir Halilagic. "My job is to prevent that. Every mine and every UXO I remove and I destroy is maybe one life or one limb more."
Despite the fact that they are relative newcomers in the world of EOD experts, the U.S. military leaders have been impressed with them. "They've been productive, they've been safe, they've been professional in the way they've gone about their business," said LTC Mark Davis.
I am proud and grateful to call the Bosnia and Herzegovina forces allies and coalition partners.
To read more about our Coalition Partners, click on the label 'Coalition' on the lower left.