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U.S. Tankers End Mission in Bosnia, Return to Germany

By Master Sgt. Kathy Wright, USAR
American Forces Press Service

SLAVONSKI BROD, Croatia, Aug. 28, 1996 – Like a conscientious driver preparing his vehicle for a long trip, Staff Sgt. Xavier E. Scott and his crew labored the better part of a hot, sweltering day at McGovern Base recently getting their M1-A1 Abrams tank ready for the first leg of their return to Germany.

They are taking their 68-ton tank home to Friedberg in September. It's a journey members of the 1st Platoon, Company A, 2-67 Armor, have been working for since their arrival in Bosnia-Herzegovina eight months ago.

Temperatures soared into the 90s and the dust turned everything a light shade of brown, but the soldiers hardly noticed as they strained to change the 312 track pads that will cushion the M1-A1's 90-kilometer ride to Slavonski Brod, Croatia.

Scott's tank is one of 14 scheduled to leave Task Force 3-5 at the end of August. That date will mark the eight- month anniversary of the group's arrival at "Desolation Boulevard," where Scott spent one of the most tense nights of his life.

As part of the first NATO peace implementation force group to deploy to the former front lines of the fighting factions, the Kansas City, Mo., native still recalls the fear that hung in the cold December air.

"We could see men carrying AK-47s, and no one was sure they wouldn't use them," Scott said. "But once we moved our tanks in, they saw what they were up against and they quickly backed off."

The 1st Armored Division tanks continued to roll, averaging 1,500 miles over the next four months. Scott said the massive vehicles would hardly move 50 miles during that time frame in Germany.

Chalking up driving time on local roads, Scott and his men also left a little boot leather on the streets of Brcko, Bosnia, and other nearby foot-patrolled areas. Members of the platoon cross-trained and worked side by side with infantry soldiers early in the operation.

"I enlisted as an armor crewman because I like riding better than walking," 23-year-old Army Spc. Jon A. Schneider said with a smile. "But it was interesting to work with those guys."

A Houston native who has been in the U.S. Army for a year and a half, Schneider also had the chance to get a close look at T-55 Russian-built tanks. "We were called out when seven tanks were spotted on the move," Schneider said. "Our crew was really pumped about confronting these guys, and I think we all were a little terrified not knowing what their intentions were."

The tank crew soon discovered coordination for the tank movement had not been properly made and an attack was not imminent. "We were half relieved and half disappointed," said Schneider.

Scott said he is totally relieved he will be taking back his soldiers and tanks in as good a shape as he brought them. "Completing the job and making sure no one got hurt doing it was my goal," said the 37-year-old father of three. "It's a good feeling to know we accomplished what we set out to do."

Both Scott and Schneider agreed they learned a great deal, not all of it relating to armor. "I discovered that as Americans we make a big impression on others," Schneider said. "The flag we wear on our uniform carries a lot of respect as well as responsibility."

(Master Sgt. Kathy Wright is assigned with the 350th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, currently deployed to Bosnia- Herzegovina.)

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