Bosnia was under the control of the United Nations (UN)s in 1996 due to the civil war-induced fall of former Yugoslavia. Civil wars are actually country-private internal affairs, supposing that under certain circumstances a country has a right to work out its own issues of internal strife. Such was not the case with Bosnia; the atrocities and crimes against humanity had more than overwhelmed the world’s threshold for horror, and an end to it all had to be expedited.
I came to Bosnia with a dozen men from the Delta Force to provide personal protective services to the American General who was the UN-assigned commander of the entire country until order, such as the rest of the world viewed order, was restored. We provided for all of the physical security requirements for the General; we planned and accompanied him on all movements of his daily routine and secured his location at every stop.
“The general is an avid runner and he wants to go for a run today,”
“Well, not in Sarajevo he’s not,”
“The general doesn’t take instructions from Sergeants, Sergeant…”
“He will from these Sergeants, or these Sergeants pack up and return to Ft. Bragg,”
That’s how the conversation between the General’s Executive Officer (XO), or “Ass-Boy” as we had come to affectionately title him, and our Personal Security Detachment (PSD) leader, D-Man, went down initially. True, it was our call regarding all security matters as they pertained to the General’s safety, and true we DID have authority from our command to return to Ft. Bragg if we felt we were not getting the cooperation we needed to complete our mission.
“Look, Sergeant… the General is adamant. We’re trying to work with you here; please, can you just throw us a bone?”
With that D-Man and the Ass-Boy left our team room to go and personally hash out the matter with the big man himself. In less than a half-hour, D-Man’s voice came over our radio net summoning us all to the team room for mission planning.
“Oh, holy hell… looks like the Boss is going for a jaunty jog after all.”
D-Man burst into the room and began to draw street intersections on the whiteboard indicating the running route they were going to take. A couple of men with pistols were assigned to run with the General. Others were placed at the four corners of the route with assault rifles (AR) concealed under long coats. Two men were assigned to vehicles to advance the route and to roam nearby with assault rifles.
“Geo,” D-man tapped the southwest corner of the route, “there’s that burned-out church on this corner…”
“Yeah, I know it; it’s the one we have been calling ‘The Church of Saint Dimwit — ha, ha, we call it that because…’”
D-man didn’t even appear to hear me, “Get up in that steeple with an AR and some glass; and you’ll be able to see everything up north and all the way east to this next turn. Once we’ve passed you, head back over and advance the front gate to receive us as we come in.”
“Have you been in there, D-man, because it’s burnt pretty crisp in there and I don’t know if the stairs…”
D-man didn’t hear me and was already spinning up a vortex sucking in everything that wasn’t fixed in place. St. Dimwit’s was actually really close by. I tucked my CAR-15 inside my coat and scurried directly to the church to give myself time to figure out how to get up in the steeple if the stairs were burned away.
Aside from any concern I had about getting aloft in the steeple, I was jazzed about the whole idea of going full Kelly’s Heroes climbing up in a church steeple — a sniper’s paradise — and reporting on Tiger Tank activity… er, watching an old guy jog by. Images of the Gospel-quoting steeple-perched sniper in Saving Private Ryan also made their debut in my mind; how could they not?
I venture to say I looked quite the pervert strolling down the sidewalk with a long coat tightly pinched shut on such a warm day that it was, my gun barrel nonetheless projecting my coat forward in a sort of tent, but my personal appearance was a back-burner thing at the moment. Frankly, it really was just too soon after the collapse of the entire country for the locals to re-engage in the practice of wardrobe critique; perhaps once again after a few months of peace.
Once inside the structure, I headed straight to where the stairs leading up must be, wondering how much climbing I would have to do. I was instantly startled by the lofty statue of the well-charred Saint Dimwit mounted on the wall next to the stairwell, his arms extended down and outward and as if welcoming his… I don’t know… Flock?
The stairs looked horrible. All wooden, they were burned to charcoal. I did what any fool in a hurry would have done, I eased my weight onto one step runner then another. To my glee, they were only torched on the outside and really sturdy otherwise — praise be to Saint Dimwit! The notion briefly crossed my mind that D-Man somehow knew the stairs were still intact and serviceable, but I just couldn’t know that at the time. All I did know is that I wouldn’t put it past a guy like him to be already situationally aware before he sent me — that bastard!
D-Man was a razor-sharp Ginsu, that I did fancy. The scene from the steeple was just as he described with excellent open fields of view to the north and east all the way to the second turn. At that corner, one of my bros was already sitting on a sidewalk bench with his long coat tightly pinned shut. The first turn was right below me; directly across the street was another of my bros standing with a pinched shut long coat. All throughout the land for many years to come, this day would be known to the local gentry as “The Day of the Perverted Long Coats”.
Position checks were rolling over the radio net as D-Man ordered each man to call in his security position status in order of movement along the route:
“Front Gate all ok.”
“South-west corner all ok.”
“South-east corner all ok.”
“Rover one all ok”
“Rover two all ok”
“Erm, Dimwit Steeple all ok!”
I watched the front gate to our compound open up. One of the Rover Vehicles broad-sided the street and blocked all traffic as Ass-Boy, the General and his entourage hobbled out and across the road, turned south and headed my way. I stuck my AR out the window of the steeple and started scanning everything possible out in front of the runners. Realistically, there hadn’t been any advance notice of this event, therefore there was no time to leak the event such that anyone would be able to respond as a threat to the General. He would if anything be only a target of opportunity for some spirited player.
“A little less profile please Dimwit,” came D-man’s request as I pulled myself back inside through the shattered windowpane,” He was right, yes… I had to curb my enthusiasm for the thrill of the moment.
When the group had rounded the south-east corner and was lost from my view, I made my way back down the blackened stairs, pinched shut my coat, and quick-stepped my way to the front gate of our compound. With the constant status reports coming in over the radio from all the checkpoints it was a cinch to keep track of the Boss’ near exact position.
“Dimwit, are you up? We’re on short-final,” came D-Man’s call. So he had been listening after all. “RGR, Dimwit Steeple all clear. I have visual with you; come on in.” D-man told me later that the General, overhearing the radio traffic on the jog, had commented: “Dimwit Steeple??”
The jog-mob hooked into the front gate as D-Man and I exchanged nods of affirmation. He looked a bit winded; I have to say. Back in the team room all the positions had collapsed down and gathered for an After Action Review (AAR). D-Man’s only comment was to the effect: “It’s amazing to me how well operations can go when you don’t have enough planning time to phuq them all up,” — raw wisdom!
The XO pushed his way into the room patting his face and neck with a powder-blue towel as if he had just finished a set of pilates:
“Well, that certainly went swimmingly, don’t you think? The General would like to run again tomorrow.”
“Not tomorrow he won’t; not here, hell no.”
“Well, the General doesn’t take orders from Serg…”
“Well, he takes orders from these Sergeants,” and so it went. All the General’s jaunts from that point on were conducted on UN-secured compounds, and so ended that adventure genre.
“How was [sic] things in Saint Dimwit’s, Geo?” D-Man asked as he was headed out the door for the night.
“They were fine, just fine D-man. Stairs present and sturdy, no worries… why?”
All he offered me a savvy wink and a nod both upon exit —- that bastard!
By Almighty God and with honor,