This Veterans Day I would like to tell you about a team of Army Civilian Safety Professionals and the work they did to bring peace to Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Operation Joint Endeavor began in the fall of 1995 under the worst Balkan winter and the worst flooding of the Sava River in seventy years. As the soldiers began to deploy few were aware that an initial effort to reduce risks had begun months before they packed their bags. Early in 1995 the V Corps Safety Office had begun the move to a deployable safety office that could run a plans branch to support all Battle Staff planning and risk assessments as well as an operations branch to execute the safety program on the ground.
An annex to the Operation Joint Endeavor campaign plan was written that focused on standard compliance and risk management. To support that annex risk assessments were conducted on all railheads for deployment from Germany. Units conducted risk assessments of their own operations using the deliberate and hasty risk assessment methods. US Army Europe (USAREUR) and V Corps Safety combined efforts to develop waivers for uploading combat vehicles. These waivers were based on a risk assessment method developed by Jim Schooler of U.S. Army USAREUR Safety.
Commanders at all levels faced severe challenges caused by the extreme winter weather, flooding and the short time line for the deployment. The lack of any structure within Bosnia-Herzegovenia caused billeting problems, a severe shortage of good road networks and an over abundance of dirt that quickly turned into mud. With this extreme situation before them the need to provide a safe working and living environment within Bosnia-Herzegovenia was evident and a great deal of work was done to balance the needs of the mission with the need for hazard control. This was an extremely difficult task. Commanders used a variety of methods to identify and control hazards.
Risk management was but one method. Second, Unit leadership was task to act as standard enforcers. Civilian Safety Professionals were a third element, while Wartime Army Safety Personnel played a role as well. Commanders also used the Force Protection working group to identify and control hazards. When you compare the numbers of fatalities, disabilities, and property damage with the number of soldiers on the ground, extremely bad roads, no fixed facilities early on it is evident that commanders were successful in controlling hazards.
Civilian Safety Professionals played a role from beginning to end of Operation Joint Endeavor (OJE). Initially, our colleagues were living in tents and sub-standard buildings with no heat or plumbing, in the middle of winter. Ed Hoffman and Carter Boggess were the first two into Taszar, Hungary to stand up the USAREUR Forward safety office at the Intermediate Staging Base (ISB). Tina Whittington also pulled a tour of duty as the safety manager of the USAREUR Forward assisted by Roy Valiant. They were followed by Anne Ferguson as the safety manager assisted by Mark Peterson. Mark also spent a great deal of time in Bosnia-Herzegovenia assisting Task Force Eagle with range design and construction as well as ammunition/explosive storage and loading/downloading. Fred Fanning took over from Anne as the safety manager assisted by Don Barnett, an Environmental Protection Specialist. To support the ISB and the deployment of the 3d Corps Support Command Joe Sapp deployed to Hungary along with Mike Moody of the 29th Area Support Group. In Bosnia-Herzegovina Mike Wood, safety manager, and Tanya Griffea, safety specialist, deployed with the 1stArmored Division. They served as the safety office for Task Force Eagle and 1st Armored Division. Dennis Woolsey, Ed Hoffman, and Tina Whittington all took a turn rotating as the safety manager of Task Force Eagle after Mike Wood completed his tour of duty. Steve Marane from the 7th Army Training Command also deployed to develop ranges. Jim Schooler, USAREUR Safety deployed to assist in the resolution of ammunition issues. Marvin Ballard from 3d Corps Support Command provided additional support to 7th Combat Support Group in Taszar, Hungary. John Cecil spent the better part of the year as the safety manager for 181st Transportation Battalion in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. Helma Germany also supported 7th Combat Support Group. Gary Ziola, Health Physicist, supported Task Force Eagle in Bosnia-Herzegovenia and Croatia. Rovelma Hudson went to 1st Armored Division in Bosnia-Herzegovenia and Croatia and USAREUR Forward in Hungary.
The narrow roads, long Main Supply Routes and limited rest areas increased the risk significantly. In some areas the roads were so narrow that two Army Convoys could not pass each other from different directions at the same time. So thanks to some creative convoy management convoys were routed, dispatched, tracked and accounted for so that no two convoys met in a spot they could not pass nor piled upon each other at rest stops. This was one of the great success stories of OJE brought about by the soldiers of the USAREUR Forward Redeployment Operations Cell in Taszar, Hungary. The narrow roads, long Main Supply Routes and limited rest areas increased the risk significantly.
The Sava River Crossing was an engineering feat that will go unmatched for sometime. Jonathan Foster volunteered to leave his job with the 130 Engineer Brigade to serve as the safety manager for the Engineer Brigade, 1st Armored Division for the river crossing. He then returned to the 130thEngineer Brigade to see the river crossing through to success and sustainment. The river crossing was exacerbated by severe flooding and the international pressure to cross the river to meet the time constraints of the Dayton Peace Accord.
Cold weather was also a concern with high levels of snow, cold temperatures, and prolonged exposure to weather by the soldiers. A strong cold weather injury prevention program was started before the operation began along with command emphasis reduced injuries to an unbelievable four out of 20,000 troops on the ground through a harsh Balkan winter with little or no improved housing or work areas. A“Winning In The Cold” booklet was developed from books used in Korea and the old 8th Infantry Division. The book was a single source document for cold weather operations, injury prevention, and equipment usage. Trainers were brought in from the Mountain Warfare School in Vermont to conduct training for leaders of deploying units. A major control measure was the issue of additional cold weather clothing and equipment that was provided to each soldier to protect them from the harsh Balkan winter. This additional equipment included extreme cold weather boots, two pairs of cold weather boots, extreme cold weather sleeping bags, and many more items. Some equipment was issued to allow the soldier time to clean the items so that they could wear one set have one set drying from previous wearing and a third set being cleaned.
Risk assessments were also an integrated part of the redeployment. Units from the 1st Armored Division conducted a risk assessment of the redeployment. When units processed through the Intermediate Staging Base in Taszar, Hungary. All non-divisional units conducted hasty risk assessments. These risk assessments covered the next days operations. The 7th Combat Support Group was the command and control of all deploying and redeploying units going through Taszar, Hungary. They conducted daily risk assessments as the service and support provider. The USAREUR Forward Safety Office conducted daily threat assessment briefings as part of the commanding general’s up-date brief. This briefing included an assessment of threats facing the force within the next 24-36 hours and included risk management information as well as standards to help reduce the risks. The information was targeted at subordinate battalion size units to include the Task Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Control measures recommended were implemented and supervised.
Units redeploying went through a seven-day process at the Intermediate Staging Base with a new unit on a different part of the process each day. The marshaling area was a portion of a runway blocked off for vehicle parking for several hundred vehicles. It became so crowded that roads, taxiways and additional ramp space was taken for vehicle parking. This became one of the biggest issues with hundreds of vehicles and people moving during the hours of darkness. A greater concern for the whole operation was convoy traffic throughout Hungary, Croat, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
A special assessment team was put together with Roy Valiant, Helma German, and Carter Boggess. This team surveyed all processes involved in the redeployment at the Intermediate Staging Base in Taszar, Kaposvar and Kaposujlak, Hungary. The surveys were an upstream evaluation of the processes before an accident occurred to support the next days or weeks operations. Naturally, any hazards present for the unit going through the process were brought to the attention of the using unit, 7thCombat Support Group, and USAREUR Forward, Chief of Staff. Corrective measures were taken to resolve the hazard and correct the system to remove the hazard for the future customers. This team ran 24 hour a day operations to evaluate the process at all hours with all types of units on a continuing basis for the six weeks of the heaviest redeployment activity. It is widely believed that this team made the safe redeployment possible. It would not have been successful if the USAREUR Forward and 7th Combat Support Group staffs had not reduced and controlled the hazards and systemic defects found by the team. The areas covered by the team included ammunition down load site, four rail heads, marshaling area, vehicle parking and maintenance areas, ranges and a tent life support area of 500 tents each using two kerosene heater and the wash rack.
The safety program developed and used during operation joint endeavor is a living model and standard of a tactical safety program. Each civilian safety professional made a commitment to the success of operation joint endeavor as well as set the standard for safety during Operation Joint Guard the follow-on mission to Operation Joint Endeavor. I hope you are as proud of their work as I am.