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Tuzla 10 Set Up U.S. Headquarters in Northern Bosnia

By Linda Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

TUZLA, BOSNIA, Jan. 3, 1996 – The Tuzla 10 came to town just less than a month ago. Their mission: set up a base camp for Task Force Eagle, mainly comprised of a 20,000-strong U.S. armor division, at a former Yugoslavian air base in Northern Bosnia.

The 10 Army and Air Force officers and NCOs, who earned the Tuzla 10 handle, tackled the task with a little help from their friends: local residents, plus Nordic troops stationed at the base as part of the United Nations Protection Force.

The American advance team turned a quiet, tree-lined base into a bustling, beehive of activity. Within 72 hours after the team arrived Dec. 6, the airfield was operational, according to Army Maj. Joseph Austin of the 18th Military Police Brigade in Mannheim, Germany.

Austin is now the camp's deputy provost marshal. As a member of the Tuzla 10, his job was to assess the security situation and coordinate operations with local police and U.N. force military police.

According to Austin, the advance team was made up of specialists in logistics, engineering, communications, security and other areas vital to support a major military operation. But, he said, each team member quickly became a jack-of-all-trades arranging for local suppliers to provide latrines, showers, gravel, bakery goods and drinking water.

Today, nearly 2,000 U.S. soldiers, airmen and Marines are at the base preparing for the arrival of the rest of the combat force. Force protection is a top priority. Troops from the 3rd Battalion, 325th Infantry (Airborne), in Vicenza, Italy, guard the base, man gates and patrol perimeters. Table saws whine as Air Force engineers put up 20 "hard tents" a day. Each tent features a wooden floor and thermostat- controlled heat. Tent City will be home for service members for up to a year.

Austin said the advance team received a warm reception and cooperative support from the U.N. forces and the local Bosnian population. He said Nordic logistics troops helped the Americans, providing large gravel trucks, for example, to help break new ground setting up parking lots. "They were very instrumental early on in the preparation of the base here," Austin said.

Army Maj. Jim Bates, a logistician with the 1st Armored Division, was another member of the Tuzla 10. Even though his primary specialty is logistics, he said the team all shared responsibility for setting up logistical support.

"Our No. 1 concern was billeting," Bates said. "Our population went from 10 one day, to 100 the next day to 600 the next day. Now we're over 2,200. From there it was food, and fuel. Then we branched out into arranging for laundry service and setting up showers for the soldiers. We got a bakery and water delivery going. We bought a lot of lumber for tent floors."

Local Bosnian contractors are learning how to support the U.S. base, Bates said. "We contracted for quartermaster laundry service. They had never cleaned uniforms for the military before, so there's a learning curve there."

Eventually about 3,000 troops will be stationed at the Tuzla base for the year-long peace mission. Other members of the U.S. division, along with Turkish and Russian battalions under U.S. operational command, will be deployed throughout the northern sector established by the Dayton, Ohio, agreement.

As the population grows, so too, does the paperwork, according to Bates. "In the beginning there was a lot less red tape," he said. "We just made things happen because we had to make it happen. There were some gray areas, so we decided as long as we didn't cheat anybody and it was on behalf of the welfare of the soldiers, we went ahead and guessed it would be OK."

Since the team arrived, Bosnia's harsh winter snows and fog delayed and canceled flights carrying troops, supplies and equipment. A warming trend produced a sea of sloppy, liquid mud that now coats boots and everything else it touches.

Nothing stops the progress for long, however. Troops work long into the night setting up for their counterparts on the way from bases in Europe. Living conditions will steadily improve, according to Bates.

"Now we've got a lot of combat forces here and the quality of life needs to improve for everyone," Bates said. "We're soldiers and used to living in hard conditions, but we'd still like to be able to shower every day or so. Right now, some of the soldiers on the perimeter are only getting showers every four days or so."

After two-and-a-half weeks at the camp, Army Spc. Frederick High, from C Company, 3rd Bn., 325th Inf., said the weather has been good and bad. He said the best part of the job was the added pay he'll receive while in Bosnia.

Sgt. Russell Keller, also of C Company, agreed making a little extra money is definitely a plus. "You aren't spending any money over here so when you get back to the states or to Italy, you can buy some extra things," he said. The worst part of the mission, Keller said, is the weather.

Army 2nd Lt. Chris Meredith, a C Company platoon leader and a native of Alabama, said he doesn't often see weather like the Bosnian winter he's now dealing with, but he's getting used to it.

When asked what he felt was the best part of being in Bosnia, Meredith replied, "It may sound corny but, just being here to serve my country."

The worst part: "Being away from my family."

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