I was deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina in March of 1999. We landed March 7th to be exact at Eagle Base near Tuzla, after a long 17-18 hour flight from Ft. Hood, Texas. On March 24th, 17 days later, NATO began bombing Serbia for its actions in Kosovo.
Before coming to Bosnia, I only knew about the war from watching Channel One in sixth grade homeroom before the beginning of the school day, and from the little bit of history we learned in our preparation for our deployment. Our mission was to keep the warring factions from basically wiping each other off the face of the earth. We were stationed at Camp Comanche, roughly a kilometer or two from Eagle Base, which was the headquarters of the Multi National Division-North and the 1st Cavalry Division in Bosnia.
Our basecamp was the headquarters of the 4th Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, which was an aviation brigade with numerous helicopters of three main types, Blackhawks, Apache Longbow and Kiowa Warrior. We were tasked with base security and presence patrols in and around the town of Zivinice, which nestled right up to our perimeter. We had sixteen guard towers and two gates, front and back, the back leading to the road that connected our camp and Eagle Base.
For the main bulk of our deployment, I was assigned to our base Quick Reaction Force. I had also manned the front and back gates, mostly the front, and at one time for about a week, I was assigned to a tower, because I was told that I was getting too close to the children who frequented the front gate. I had used our general purpose first aid kit to mend a wound on one of the gypsy kids who always came to the gate asking for MRE's. So, because I couldn't stand to see this little boy with blisters and sores all over his feet, I was stuck in a tower for helping him. Whatever, I thought we were there to help.
Anyways, Bosnia was, in my opinion, a very beautiful country from the air, but very spooky down on ground level. The place just had an air of foreboding around it. Ominous really. I'm sure the stigma of the war and the amount of people who were killed there added to that feeling.
I've taken an interest in learning more about the war in recent times, and having done this, came to terms with the misery and death that proceeded our arrival. I read a story in the Talon, which was the TF Eagle newspaper, so to speak, about a unit from 1/5 Cav that had an observation post on a hilltop or mountain top, I can't remember which, that used to be an artillery OP during the war. The unit told of unexplained happenings around their perimeter and tales of apparitions around their post. Supposedly during the war, the OP was destroyed and is haunted by the commander and his brother from what I can remember. Having only one experience to my name at Ft. Hood, that I recently shared with this site, I found the article interesting, but still remained a skeptic nonetheless.
One night while working the midnight to noon shift on QRF, we received a call of someone possibly trying to gain entrance to the camp through the concertina wire fence near Tower 6, by the flight line. This wasn't too uncommon, as we had teenagers actually cut through the wire and actually steal some fire extinguishers under the noses of some very lax and irresponsible guards in the towers. Still, we loaded the. 50 cal M2 machine guns on our two up-armored humvees, and started to make our way out there. Before we pulled out, we were told to make our way to the conexes that were positioned near the back perimeter road. This was on our way so, we acknowledged and headed drove to the location. The commander of the guard, and a few intel officers and the base commander and Sgt. Major were there as well. When I saw all the higher ups there, I thought maybe something was actually going down, and I shared in the excitement of my QRF buddies that we might get to shoot something. Being a young 19 year old Specialist E4, and joining the Army for the possibility of that happening, you tend to get a little pumped up.
The 312th Military Intelligence battalion had their Night Stalker parked behind the conexes. This was a humvee with a long boom that had a FLIR camera mounted on top (forward looking infrared camera). Being in charge of the second vehicle in our group, myself and the corporal in charge of the first truck reported to the commander of the guard, one of 1st Lieutenants, and asked what was going on. He walked us over to the Night Stalker and showed us on the monitor where it looked like 4 or 5 'people' were milling about near and inside of the first line of concertina wire. We didn't need any convincing, and asked for the order. We came up with a plan to move to the area on foot to try and surprise the culprits and possibly catch a few in the act. Our first shift QRF had actually done something similar and caught a young teen in the act a few weeks before, so it seemed the logical thing to do.
We went back to our trucks, gathered our soldiers and checked our weapons, locking a round in the chamber and making sure they were all on safe, and moved around to the perimeter road. Once in the ditch on the back side of the road, we laid out the plan. I took two soldiers across the road to the ditch on the other side and the corporal took his two soldiers down the other side to a predetermined bend in the road where we would link up and continue with our plan. The reason for splitting up that way was just precaution and to ensure a proper amount of distance between our group, in case we actually were faced with a hostile force trying to make their attack. This wasn't too farfetched, as NATO was at war with Serbia and the Serbs didn't particularly care for us, and had threatened attacks against NATO forces in Bosnia to draw us into the war. Needless to say, we were on edge, yet ready to meet whatever we faced and do our job.
When we arrived at the bend in the road, the corporal and his group crossed over to our side of the road under our cover and linked up with us. We set the next course of action, which called for my group slipping through the concertina wire at an attachment point connected to a post and the corporal group continuing up the ditch, thus ensuring we could cover each other and take the flank away from whoever was coming through the wire.
We came up on Tower 5 and had about 100-200 meters left to cover at this point, after we uncooked the wire and slipped outside the perimeter of our camp and reattach the wire. We made contact with guard base and Tower 6 to make sure our culprits were still around, and after confirmation from Night Stalker and one of the guards in the tower wearing Night Vision that the 5 intruders were still there and that the tower and Night Stalker could see us, we continued with our mission. What happened next is mind boggling and there is absolutely no explanation for it.
After covering about 75 meters, we heard the tower call guard base and say that the culprits are gone. "Tower 6, Guard Base, what do you mean they're gone? Over. "Guard Base, Tower 6, it's like they disappeared and they're not there anymore, over." Pretty soon, Guard Base contacts us, "Warrior QRF 1 and 2, did you copy that last transmission? Over." Guard Base, Warrior QRF 1, roger, over. I give the same response.
Guard Base told us he was enroute to our location with a few trucks to investigate and to proceed on foot and link up at Tower 6. As he was transmitting his instructions to us, I could hear what appeared to be Night Stalker, I assume, conversing with one of his soldiers and say, "Dude, they ain't there anymore." Now keep in mind, everyone but us had eyes on the target/culprits, whatever, and told us before we started that they were indeed there inside the fence line. Now, they're not there anymore, they just disappeared, and myself and my team are outside the wire, with things that just disappear without warning. One of my guys was visibly freaked out, as was I and the other soldier, but I had to calm him down and tell him I needed him right now and to keep his eyes open.
By this time, about 5 or 6 humvees passed us on the road and were closing on Tower 6. We maintained radio contact with the corporal and his team on the PRC 126 hand held radios for inter squad communication. We didn't have much ground to cover so we decided to maintain sight with each other and we bounded toward the tower, covering each other just in case someone was waiting for us inside the tree line outside our perimeter.
Soon we were at the tower, and we had to find an entry point where we could detach a section of wire and get back inside. We had to move down another 50 meters or so away from the tower to gain entry. The tower guards and everyone else who had gathered at the tower, including myself and one of my soldiers, faced out and trained our weapons on the tree line while the other soldier opened the wire and we made our way back inside the perimeter. After reattaching the wire, we made our way over to the tower to see what the hell happened.
The whole time we maintained cover while the wire was being opened to go back in, I was beyond spooked and on edge, waiting any minute to be shot, and not having night vision, I could swear that every little shadow inside the tree line was a Serb waiting to blow me and my guys away. We ran to that tower, the hell with taking it slow at this point. If we were fired on, we had our guys covering our route and we could take cover in either ditch alongside the perimeter road. When we got to the tower, I said, "What the f*@$ do they mean they just disappeared? We dealing with freaking (not the word I used) ghosts now?" The commander of the guard said, "We were monitoring them the whole time, and they just vanished, no trace, just gone."
Unbelievable! Of course the lieutenant was in contact with Night Stalker and still no sign. By now, we had a pretty good show, as everyone who was something on that camp was there. The even had hunter-killer teams of Apache Longbow and Kiowa Warriors in the air circling the base to search for our 'ghosts'. Everyone was a little bit spooked by this time, and I have no idea what time it was, but I was just ready to get back to the QRF tent and watch a movie or play Playstation, anything to get away from that freaky circus that was taking place.
After about an hour or so, we were released back to get our vehicles and head back to the tent. We took some good-natured ribbing when we got back to the tent from the guys who stayed back to man the radio and the commander of our QRF, Staff Sergeant Bonilla. We were met with, "You guys see any ghosts?" and "Heard you guys almost shot up Casper and his family, that's messed up. Casper is friendly and never didd anything to you." Now, that's just a clean version of the jokes we heard. But, we all know what we saw.
The whole situation was spooky, and when we were relieved by the noon to midnight shift and took more ribbing, the corporal and I (he was one of my roommates) decided to go to the cappuccino shop and try and make sense of what went down. We went back to our room after and stayed up telling the story over and over to the small audience of our other roommates and a group of others from our battery wanting to know what happened. I ended up going to sleep around 1900 or so that night and got only about 4 hours before I had to shower and get ready for the next shift.
We did a few patrols that night in the humvees around the perimeter, and Night Stalker was set up somewhere else around the camp to continue looking but no one reported anything that night like that, or for the rest of our time there for that matter.
I have no idea what it was everyone saw, maybe it was a malfunction in the equipment from Night Stalker and the NVG's in the tower? Could be but that's one hell of a coincidence for two separate pieces of equipment to malfunction at the same time. It is the Army though, so it's possible. Were they ghosts that just happened to make their presence known to a roughly company sized element of soldiers? Might be.
There was one night I was walking back from the front gate to my room, the other guys went to our chow hall that operated 24 hours, and I passed what I thought was a civilian worker on her way out to the front gate to go home. However, all the civilians we had working at camp checked out at 2100 hours and this was a little after 0400 in the morning. Anyways, I smiled and said hello and she returned my greeting. When it registered that I'd never seen her before, and the time, I turned around, and she was gone. Couldn't have been but a few seconds, unless she jumped into the bushes, but I would have heard that. She was pretty, and looked very real. But, she disappeared and never saw her or any other strange occurrences again. I'd heard some of our tower guards and gate guards say they've seen people that were there one minute and gone the next, but chalked it all up to boredom and just being in a strange place.
Anyways, we had asked if anyone found anything out a few days later, and of course, nothing. Night Stalker's camera didn't record as it operated, just provided real time night vision. Bosnia was one of the cooler, stranger and fun experiences I've had. I kind of miss the place, and the people I met.
I was able to visit Sarajevo, Makarska, Croatia which is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen, visit a refugee camp and deliver toys to the children who lived there. I met one of the sweetest little girls at that camp, she clung to me for the two or three hours we spent there. I heard a lot of stories, some good, some sad and depressing, and some just down right bad from our interpreters who were at the gates with us and accompanied us on presence patrols. They all experienced the brutality of the war first hand. A couple were women, a few years older than me, who would make me origami birds and give me flowers. I think of them often, and hope they have a better life now because of our presence there.
I can't explain, nor do I think anyone can explain who was there, what we saw that night. Given what happened in that war, I wouldn't be surprised to have someone tell me they were spirits that hadn't moved on. Like I said in my other story, I'm not sure what I believe in when it comes to paranormal things, yet at the same time, I would never knock anyone who does.
I hope whoever reads this long experience can offer an opinion to what we saw that night. Some research I've done on that area, didn't reveal much as to what happened there during the war. All I know is that our camp used to be a part of Tuzla Airbase during the years of the former Yugoslavia, and we were in an area that had a Muslim majority. I can't find any instances of any battles, but I do know something had to have happened in the vicinity, because there were houses that bore the brunt of war.
Again, thanks for taking the time to read my story, and I look forward to any questions, comments, critiques, any insightful opinions into what we saw. Any disbelieve or skeptics like myself, you're more than welcome to comment as well.