Academies ensure future de-miners
by Capt. Peter Tubaas
First published in SFOR Informer #34, April 22, 1998
Mostar - De-mining academies are now being put up in Mostar, Banja Luka and Novi Travnik according to the lines laid down in the Dayton Agreement stating that the Entity Armies are responsible themselves for clearing mines in Bosnia and Hercegovina.
"Our main aim is for the Entities to develop a self sustaining de-mining capability, through the training of de-mining instructors and academy staff. Selected SFOR personnel will follow up and monitor the academies, in order to ensure quality assurance in their work," says Company Sgt. Maj. Pete Moosey from HQ Engineers in Sarajevo.
The financial part of the de-mining program is provided by the U.S. Government, which provides new de-mining equipment, upgrading facilities, supply office and classroom equipment. The academies are a part of SFORs long term de-mining strategy and will exist as long as there is a need for them.
On Tuesday April 14, 24 students from the HVO (Croat Defence League) attended the academy outside Mostar. The incoming teachers and staff at the academy are being trained by U.S. Special Forces and by mid-May the Bosnian Croat soldiers will be ready to conduct their first de-mining course on their own. The initial course has proceeded as expected, explained Capt. Joshua Noble, who is in charge of the Mostar part of the program.
"The students are very knowledgeable about mines and demolition, but they are weak in some of the common skills such as land navigation and first aid. We also teach them to de-mine up to United Nations standards."
So far the Entity Armies have carried out mine lifting in their own way, picking only mines which they know of. But UN standards imply clearing a certain area by probing every two centimetres of the field, and putting emphasis on safety. The de-mining programme is therefore being developed with consultations from the UN Mine Action Centre.
"UN gave us the training guidelines. They let us observe when they held a similar course not far from Mostar. We have adjusted the course to our situation and have got some very good advice from the Canadians whom were conducting the course," said Chief of Training, MSgt. Timothy Twiss,.
The school will mainly be graduating de-mining teams of 9 people, one commander, one medic and seven de-miners. The first part of the training put emphasis on the common skills, before the de-miners and the medical personnel get their separate training. The team commander will be taught the basic leadership skills on appropriate occasions during the course. The course eventually culminates in a three day long exercise, which will exercise all the skills of the de-mining team.