Implementation Force 1996 Op Alliance
With the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina changed dramatically. The fighting had stopped, and one of the provisions in the agreement was that a new force with a new mandate, and better equipment, would replace the United Nations. Thus Operation ALLIANCE was born. A Squadron was about to head back to Bosnia-Herzegovina for the second time in eight months, having completed an Operation Cavalier rotation in May 1995.
The Warning Order arrived in early December, and The Regiment was a flurry of activity trying to put A Squadron together. It was time to bring everything back together. The RQ, TQ and SQ worked miracles.
The Cougars that we were to use were already in theater since they had not yet been returned after the close down of Operation CAVALIER. Of major concern was what kind of shape were the vehicles in and how much of the vehicle kit was in theater. An initial recce was conducted by the Regimental TQ, MWO Al Dalton. His report was less than encouraging. Although the vehicles were there, the location of the vehicle kits and ancillary equipment was anybody's guess.
Back in Petawawa, the next problem encountered was collecting all the Bisons that were required. Indeed, in some cases they came from various parts of Canada only the day before they were to be placed on the Hercules to deploy.
The Squadron was organized into three Scout Troops of seven cars (Cougars) each. A Squadron Headquarters with a Cougar for the OC, two Bison CPs, a Bison RRB, and a Bison for the Liaison Officer. Admin Troop had Bisons for the 2IC, the SSM and the SQ, as well as two Bison Ambulances. Rounding out the Squadron was the ubiquitous Maintenance Troop with their six Bison MRT's, better known as the Buffalo. Initially there were two Leopard tanks primarily for mine clearance taskings.
The deployment to Bosnia started on the evening of 29 December. The 2IC, Capt James Bradley, and the SSM, MWO Denis Levesque, were part of the Brigade Recce Party.
The first priority was to determine the state of the equipment, and indeed the quantity of equipment held in the Port of Sibenik, Croatia. Some of it was in a truly sad state. Reports were sent back to Canada and the SQMS, WO Brian Decoste and his staff, continued to work miracles in collecting the necessary kit for the operation.
Meanwhile, the 2IC and SSM, along with some representatives of 23 Field Engineer Squadron and the Golf Company Group (2 RCR) were busy conducting site recces for a camp for the Canadian fighting units. After searching much of the Canadian Area of Operations the site chosen was an abandoned carpet factory near the Town of Kljuc.
The Advance Party came over on a series of Hercules flights in early and mid-January. The SQ staff in order to continue sorting out the available kit, moved to Velika Kladusa, the new home of the National Support Element (NSE). The squadron maintainers, lead by Sergeant Pierre Frechette, were busy trying to bring the Cougars up to an acceptable state of readiness.
MCpl Denis Aubertin and Cpl Gary Justus had their hands full trying to install VINSON in all the vehicles, while the gun plumbers Cpls Stephen MacDougal and Axel Stutzinger and the FCS Techs Cpls Mike McColeman and Ken Pollard were busy trying to get the rest of the turrets ready for operations.
The A Squadron Main Body arrived on 23 January. After a few days of uploading vehicles, conducting driver maintenance, gun checks, a small arms range, and receiving orders, the Squadron was ready to deploy.
The first task given to A Squadron was to hold a section of the Agreed to Cease Fire Line until the Czech Battalion that was to become part of the Canadian Multi National Brigade arrived in theater. Up until A Squadron showed up, the line was being held by a thinly stretched squadron from the British Army's Light Dragoons who were in theater from the UNPROFOR days.
The Squadron complete, except for a portion of Admin Troop, moved straight from Velika Kladusa to the Town of Ljubija, near Prijedor. A small school was to be home for the next few weeks. Sgt Mike Brown and much of Admin Troop went to the camp in Kljuc which was to be the Squadron's home for the remainder of the tour.
The major task for the Squadron was to patrol the ZOS ensuring that the Warring Factions were not within two kilometers of the Agreed to Cease Fire Line.
Ljubija was very busy, but it had its moments as well. 1 Troop, in particular WO Cyril Duke, displayed his recce knowledge by developing new SOPs for a bridge recce. It required two stuck Cougars in covering positions, a Cougar hanging off the bridge to check its weight classification, and a Bison CP, two Buffalos, a Liasion Officer and a Sergeant Major to recover them when the recce was complete. Sgt Terry Chesterman, of 3 Troop, discovered that a cord of wood costs twenty marks and will fill the back of two Cougars. This was not an experiment in the load capabilities for a Cougar. Rather the wood was required for a stove to keep the Troop warm during the chilly nights in the school.