The Ceremony of the Changing of the Guards, performed by the members of the Honorary…
A small and nicely furbished barracks “Vrbik” on the bank of the Drava River in Osijek houses the River Flotilla Company of the Engineer Regiment – the only unit of the Croatian Army in the continental part of Croatia and in the Croatian Armed Forces assigned with maintenance and development of navigable capabilities. The Company is commanded by Captain Tomislav Odak. During our tour of the Barracks Captain Odak said it had been built by the Croatian Army, from 1994, until 1998, when it was formally opened. Since 1991 the Company’s main mission has been the monitoring of the waterways along the rivers Drava and Danube and the assistance to the civilian community along the rivers. During the Homeland War, the ethnic cleansing of eastern Slavonia in August 1991 the non-Serb civilians in massive exodus were evacuated upstream the Danube to the mouth of the Drava River and further towards Osijek aboard barges and similar vessels.
”The predecessor unit – the Drava Squad – was a part of the 3rd Guards Brigade of the Croatian National Guard, until the reorganisation in 1995, when it was established as 2nd Osijek River Division.
A helping hand in floods
The Flotilla is a major support in responding to various complex situations occurring on inland waterways and in the adjacent areas. As members of the River Flotilla Company’s Task Force during the cold winter 2012 mined the ice on the Drava river to prevent possible flooding, while in 2014 came to aid the flood-hit population of Gunja and evacuated them and the cattle aboard their aluminium boats for days and provided the population cut-off to floods with the groceries, medicines and potable water.
”We are always by the people, consistent and ready to assist, as we did to the residents of Jasenovac, evacuation them and their property when Sava river flooded, rescuing the people and assisting in the event of engine failures.
To efficiently respond to the challenges associated with rivers and waterways on a 24-h basis, the Company is manned by crews skilfully manoeuvring the fleet, vessel operators and trained divers capable of diving in contaminated and turbid waters.
In addition to the selected and trained personnel, the Company’s pride are the three fast rubber boats “Arimar“, an unsinkable boat M-6 ”Vukovar“, five aluminium landing crafts and one rubber and neoprene boat M-67.
The Barracks “Vrbik” incorporates a river dive centre, equipped with an air bank for refilling up to five tanks at a time and with two compressors for filling the cylinders. The Flotilla is also equipped with an oxygen provider for possible accidents, and also incorporates a maintenance squad, stationed in the workshop.
”Šokadija” (OB-93) Patrol Vessel used by the River Flotilla Company was constructed back in 1953; it is 21 m long with a 4.65 m beam and 1-m draught and 48-t displacement. The vessel is equipped with two Torpedo B536RM engines ( 140 KS), an auxiliary engine IMR RAKOVICA 34 KS and a 3 x 400 W power unit for power supply, and fitted with an air defence gun (PZT 20 mm); it is served by a crew of 10 and is seaworthy.
Saving the life of a man drowning in Drava
The enlisted soldier of the Croatian Army for April 2020, Private First Class Mario Krnić and Sergeant First Class Tomislav Slatki (both members of the River Flotilla) saved the life of a drowning man, near the Barracks. Pvt Krnić, a member of the Croatian Army since 2007, recalls coming across a body floating in the water during the tour of the barracks during his guard duty. He immediately run towards him, and Sergeant First Class Slatki (a member of the Croatian Army since 1997) lent a hand and the two soldiers performed first aid.
”We didn’t know how it was going to end. We pulled the body out of the river and started reanimation , massaging the man’s heart and we realised he was alive, in a bad condition for being in a hypothermic state so we wrapped him in blankets and warmed him pending the arrival of the ambulance”. Both SFC Slatki and PFC Krnić modestly agreed that they did what everybody else would do in the situation.
Marking of the Victory and Homeland Gratitude Day
As planned, the River Flotilla Company will mark the Victory Day and Homeland Gratitude Day with a days-long voyage aboard the patrol vessel “Šokadija” from Osijek to Vukovar, where it will set a static display for the occasion.