NJ Guard Prepares 29th For Balkan Duty
Sgt. Thomas Porter, 444th MPAD

It is just another drill weekend for several dozen Guard members. The difference was they are in civilian clothes and carrying signs.

No they are not on strike but helping the 29th Infantry Division prepare for its upcoming tour of duty in the Balkans. Pretending to be Bosnians will prepare the Virginian Guard members for their peacekeeping roles in the former Yugoslavia.

"These people are given the chance to play a role, kind of like acting on a stage," said Maj. Bernie Lindstrom, operations officer for Stability and Support Operations, which is coordinating the role players. They get to play belligerent and non-belligerent civilians who live in Bosnia- Herzegovina,"

"Although we can't really immerse the 29th in Bosnian culture, we can show them what the SFOR operations are like, what living in a base camp is like," added Lindstrom.

"They are going to a volatile situation and they have to know what to expect," stated Sgt. 1st Class Michael Vay of the 253rd Transportation Battalion.

By responding to the role players, the 29th's soldiers are learning to take on important missions like last year's Project Harvest, which involved collecting weapons from Bosnia-Herzegovina civilians.

Some of the role players are members of the 42nd Infantry Division. For them, playing Bosnian civilians is giving them a headstart - the 42nd is scheduled to deploy in 2004.

"This is pre-training for our unit," observed Staff Sgt. William Long, 3- 112th Field Artillery. "This gives me an idea of what to expect."

Maj. Lindstrom is also looking for additional volunteers to participate as role players. To volunteer, contact Staff Sgt. Valerie Hopkins at (609) 562-0758, or by email at valerie.hopkins@nj.ngb.army.mil.