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A SOFA,

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A ND YOU.

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It was grim and bitterly cold, and soldiers nearby were carrying AK-47s while suspicious-looking characters, dressed in long macs, lurked nearby watching our every move. I suddenly felt as though I was immersed in an old Soviet Union war movie, but reality soon kicked in. This was no movie. It was as real as it gets. This was Sarajevo, Bosnia.

 

We could have been forgiven for not delivering pleasantries as we stepped out of our two-armored Range Rovers. Serbian warlord Radovan Karadzic walked towards us, surrounded by his monstrous bodyguards, each with a hand on their hip pistols. I had no doubt they’d be quick to use them should a threat appear against their boss. We had a boss, too, and pistols, and Heckler and Koch MP5s. We, too, were prepared to use them. We were well and truly in harm’s way, positioned in the heart of a brutal and gruesome war-zone. It looked, smelled and felt every bit the part.

 

Bosnia, in the summer, was pretty grim, but during the wintertime it took the piss. Out on the ground, I would often cast a thought to the warmth and comfort of The Gables pub in Middlesbrough, an old hangout in my hometown, or the delightfully smelling kitchen of my mums on a Sunday afternoon as she cooked a roast. All of that was a far cry from where I was now. It was close to Christmas, but there were no festivities here.

 

Instead, a high-level meeting was taking place at a hotel in the remote mountain village of Pale, eleven miles south-east of Sarajevo. On one side of the table were the leadership of the Serbian government and military, responsible for the killings of thousands through military and genocidal action during the Balkans War. On the other was one of the most highly decorated and respected British Army officers, General Sir Michael Rose, accompanied by his key advisors.

 

General Rose commanded a great deal of respect, both prior to and during his current role as the head of the United Nations Military Protection Force in the Balkans. As the former Commanding Officer of the Special Air Service, as well as ‘Director of British Special Forces’, he’d had a career to be admired, and once I started working with him, I found that he backed up everything he said. He was a well-spoken leader, a General who cared about people, but he also took no shit, no matter who was sat opposite him. It was just one of the traits in him that I would grow to admire.

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