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Helicopter removal

By 1st. Lt. Luis Sanchez
First published in
SFOR Informer#118, July 25, 2001

The Civil-Military Co-operation team from the Spanish Marines Battle Subgroup in Trebinje, a constituent of the Spanish Battle Group, Multinational Division Southeast (MND-SE), performed an operation in support of local authorities. The process was assisted by a helicopter from the Multinational Army Battalion that carried a cargo of diverse material in a “long rope sling” from a landing zone to the top of an inaccessible rocky mountain.

Trebinje - It was 5:30 a.m., July 9. Hardly had the sun risen, when two “Humvee” cars from the Spanish Marine Battle Subgroup “Felix Angosto” left their camp. The company-size detachment is located in the middle of a forest in Trebinje Municipality, and controls the eastern part of the Spanish Area of Responsibility (AOR). Driving carefully along a quite narrow and bumpy road, the fully-equipped marine team disappeared into the shadows. Twenty minutes later, they reached the environs of a totally destroyed village, which was covered with blue and yellow plastic mine warning tape. In fact, the site was in the very middle of the Inter Entity Boundary Line (IEBL), in an area where the Mine Action Centre (MAC) was working at that moment.
A clearing among the bushes near a destroyed factory building was used as the landing zone (LZ). The remains of security pins from ammunition littered the site, revealing a wartime artillery location. Deployed in the field, the Spanish marines provided security to the area. At the midpoint, seven loads, ranging from 500 to 1,000 kilograms, were prepared for removal.
Leading from the front, Capt. Jorge Alonso Búrdalo worked out the operation. He commented that local authorities asked for help to carry diverse materials and after some arrangements and authorisation the action was started. The first step was de-mining the area and making arrangements with the helicopter's crew. “Without any doubt, the most difficult point was the co-ordination,” Búrdalo said.
Not more than 15 minutes had passed when an AS-532 “Cougar” HT-21 landed, directed from the ground by one marine. The crew belonged to the BHELMA II (2nd Manoeuvring Helicopter Battalion) of FAMET (Spanish Army Air Corps). “The mission does not pose any unusual difficulty for us. We prepared everything in advance, dividing the cargo depending on the type and the delivering site,” explained Master Sgt. Jose Luis Terol, one of the pilots.
Once the load has been prepared, it would start the removal, but first the cargo commander checks everything. “The items are not standard and need to be secured, then the terrain is very irregular and the packets could roll down, striking against the rocks” explained Cpl. Javier Hernandez Escobar. “In the air the freight could swing and bounce, but the key point is to unload it very carefully and not to damage the cargo.”
In the end the operation was successfully completed and the Marine CIMIC team was off to start another job.

Related link: Nations of SFOR: Spain
CIMIC