By 1st Lt. Luis Sanchez
First published in
SFOR Informer#120, August 22, 2001
The Engineer Platoon (Genio Militare) of the
Italian Battle Group are de-mining, clearing rubble and improving
the infrastructure for 128 houses in a district of Gorazde, making
it possible for the return of Bosnian-Serb and Bosniac families.
The Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) team (S-5) directs the
operation, for which the return of Displaced Persons and Refugees
(DPRE) to their previous homes is one of their main challenges.
Gorazde - An Italian engineer platoon is working hard among the
rubble and remains of Povrsnica, a Gorazde suburb (Federation,
Canton 5, 50 kilometres east of Sarajevo), located on a slope
of the Drina River valley. They are from the 4th Regiment of Engineers
based in Palermo (Italy). Their aim is to make it easier for the
return of 113 Bosnian-Serb and 15 Bosniac families, from Visegrad
and Rogatica to their previous dwellings.
Before they got started, an Explosive and Ordnance Disposal (EOD)
team, also from the Italian engineers, went to the zone looking
for mines and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO). Once the area had been
checked and cleaned it was the turn of the engineering unit, which
had just completed a job in Zapljevac (a little village in Republika
A difficult terrain
The platoon is comprised of 12 soldiers that operate two bulldozers
and three dump trucks; for all of them this is a rewarding experience.
We have been working here for 20 days and in three days
we will be finished, this is different from the military context.
Local people highly appreciate what we are doing and these people
are very poor. They lack so many elementary things and soldiers
understand better the reality of this country, explained
1st. Lt. Luigi Cucinotta, platoon commander.
The district is in difficult terrain with no easy access and is
covered by thickets. That is why the Italians perform not only
the clearing of rubble, but also level the terrain to provide
access to the compound. In this way the bricklayers and the building
materials can reach the site.
are a lot of houses, and people come to us asking for a lot of
things. We cannot do everything they want, said WO2 Francesco
Morreale, deputy commander.
They are not beginners here; sometimes in Italy, they have to
work and assist in natural catastrophes, such as floods, earthquakes
or even volcano threats. The job doesnt technically challenge
them. They work accurately, with a high degree of professionalism.
WO1 Vincenzo Valentino is the chief operator and works closely
with the locals. People become impatient, I convince them
that the job will be done (we are here for that). In this area
there are houses belonging to Bosniacs and Bosnian-Serbs. We try
to be balanced and work in the houses of one group at a time and
then move onto another group, said Valentino.
Bulldozer operator Cpl. Fabio Ferrante volunteered for his tour
in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH): In Italy you normally train,
here not. It is rewarding when we work for people and you see
What really has touched the hearts of these soldiers is the children.
They are very poor and they are happy to meet us, we are
going to try to keep in touch with an Italian association that
helps needy children, commented Valentino.
this task the unit has been moved to the Italian garrison of Rogatica,
where a company-size unit is based in order to fulfil the mission
in the eastern part of its Area of Responsibility (AoR). They
leave the engineering machinery in a Federation Army barracks
near the site overnight, and go to Rogatica after finishing their
daily work, returning the following morning.
Some returnees are living on the site, in their recent rebuilt
houses, while others are waiting with impatience for the SFOR
soldiers to finish. International Organisations and the BiH government
continue with the task until the houses are totally rebuilt.
Nedo Mitrovic, the representative of the B-Serbs DPREs said, We
really appreciate the job performed by the Italian soldiers. It
is another reason to return here. They have been working hard
and they fulfil their promises. Now it is time for other organisations.
In this environment, the role played by SFOR translators such
as Vera Simsic is paramount, being the link between the soldiers
and DPREs or local authorities.
This operation has the capacity to carry out and support civil
projects in the huge task of rebuilding normal life in BiH. The
Engineering Platoon has just finished this task and, without stopping,
they have started on another one with the same goal: to speed
up the stabilisation process.
Nations of SFOR: Italy,