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Preparing for the future

By 1st Lt. Kristoffer Egeberg
First published in
SFOR Informer#109, March 21, 2001

Mostar - Firefighters play an essential role in running an airport. Needless to say, they can make the difference between life and death if an air- disaster should occur.
Therefore, SFOR makes an effort supporting civilian firemen in their training and with equipment so they in the future can be prepared to take control when SFOR firefighters leave.
The flames shot high during a demonstration at Mostar Airport last week. Rows of large barrels filled with fuel simulated a crashed small aeroplane on fire. Immediately, a civilian and an SFOR team of firemen were dispatched. Two large fire trucks armed with large water cannons proved to be very effective against the raging fire. In front of the commander of MND-SE, Maj. Gen. Robert Meille, and other distinguished guests, the fire was killed in less than a minute as the firefighters bombarded the "wreckage" with a mixture of water and foam.
Airport commander French Lt. Col. Daniel Cantin explained that it should take no more than two minutes to put out an aircraft fire. This one was well within the time frame.
"We have 10 military and three civilian firefighters stationed here at the airfield. The civilians are here for the training, as we are not allowed to give them clearance to work alone. Our mandate is to give them all the experience we can," Cantin said.
At the moment, training of civilian firemen is the only program of this sort going on at the airport in Mostar. Training of other important personnel must wait until a new permanent control tower is built and civilian equipment installed.
"SFOR's job is to manage the airport and authorise military aircraft to land and take off, but also to authorise civilian air traffic. But we can't stay here forever, and are therefore tasked to give local personnel sufficient experience so they are able to work alone and take charge in the future," he said.
After the demonstration the civilian firemen received a gift in the form of two high-quality fireman suits and helmets. Lack of equipment is something with which the local fire team struggles. Needless to say, the gift was warmly welcomed.
"For the moment, we have no specialised equipment for firefighting, and are very happy to receive these suits. They will definitely help us in our work," said firemen Zlatho Drmac and Ante Bosnjak.
They have been training with SFOR for six months, having both field training and theoretical exams all the time.
"This training is important for us, just as it is important to get specialised equipment. Before the war we worked as normal firemen in Mostar, but had no training in fighting fire at airports. We must continue this program with SFOR so we, in the future, (can) become expert firemen for the airport here in Mostar," they said.
And experts they will be if airport fire-if Chief Warrant Officer 1 Jean Cartasso gets his way.
"Step by step they are becoming experts, but they still need training. We try to exercise every week, and have a special scenario every two weeks. Between this we also give theoretical tests," he said.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: France
SFOR at Work