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French EOD

By Sgt. Michael Maddox
First published in
SFOR Informer#103, December 20, 2000

Mostar - The soldiers of the French Explosive Ordnance Detachment in Mostar realise they have a job that can mean the difference between life and death for both them and the many people in Multinational Division Southeast. That's why they use great precaution and skill to defuse situations involving unexploded ordnance.
To make sure the three-man team is always ready, they are either training or on a real mission every day, said Sgt. Maj. Rodolphe Liebeschitz, French EOD team chief.
"We make UXO training three to five times per week," he said. "We also have to go make destructions on UXOs and ammunition. We are very busy. Everyday we have something to do."
The team consists of two EOD soldiers and one driver. They are responsible for the UXO destruction in the French AOR. While this can be a lot of work at times, the soldiers still try to handle each situation in a similar way.
"I think about the munitions or the packet, we don't think about anything more than the mission because if you start to think about other things, it can be dangerous," said Liebeschitz. "You have to think about the mission and the second man working just near you."
"We are always thinking about the mission. When we are driving, we are talking about what we are going to do. When it is finished we can thing about other things," he added.
Fatigue can play into these missions, but there are procedures in place for these situations.
"If one day I am tired, the other EOD can work. I can go on this package or if I don't feel I am up to the mission, I stop and go to my friend who will do it," he explained. "When things begin to get routine, we stop. We tell the chiefs, we have too much work so we must work more slowly now because it could be dangerous. For example, it's better for us today to not do anything if we are tired, we have one team member who is mentally fatigued, so the chief would say, "Okay, you stop.'"
Then there are also some UXO that are more of a challenge to defuse than others, said Liebeschitz.
"Some are more dangerous than others like munitions. Here there are not too many because the war has stopped many years ago," he said. "Here the most dangerous we can find is the bounding mine. They can jump up, explode and kill many people. We don't see them every day, but every week you can hear about injuries from mines like this one."
During training, the EOD soldiers practice with the tools of their trade. They have two main ways of destroying UXOs and munitions.
In their first training scenario, a box of munitions was found and the soldiers had to neutralise it.
"We have put a box there and someone has called and said that it's suspect to be UXO. We are going to use something to make a hole in the side by water pressure from an explosion," explained Liebeschitz. "This system breaks all of the explosive ordnance systems."
After detonation, the results made finishing the job much safer for the EOD soldiers.
"You have one hole in the box where the water went and the top is blown open. It's very easy afterwards to go and see, then finish opening the box," he said.
The second scenario involved a UXO.
"When we find a UXO, the French system is not to explode it, we destroy it in place," said Liebeschitz. "We break the system, after the fuse is removed, the explosives often burn."
The breaking is done with a system called a low-holder. It involves placing a specially shaped charge over the UXO that when exploded, makes a small, precise hole. The force pushed through that hole many times blows the fuse out very quickly or splits the UXO in half.
It's a good system for populated areas, said Liebeschitz.
"This works well to protect people who live nearby because it is a small explosion," he said.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: France
Engineering - Mines and De-mining