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Iron Harvest

By Capt. Russell Craig
First published in
SFOR Informer#126, November 14, 2001

Nov. 6 the German Battle Group (GE BG) staged a demonstration of the destruction of munitions gathered during Operation Harvest. To highlight the importance of the exercise, many organisations from the entities were involved. A multitude of media were also present in order to ensure that the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) were made aware of the need for the collection.

Kalinovik - With a flash, a puff of smoke and a resounding crack, illegal weapons gathered in Operation Harvest were destroyed. The operation was initiated by SFOR in 1998 to remove from circulation throughout BiH illegal weapons, ammunition and explosive ordnance. The operation takes place across all Multi National Divisions (MND), in this case the demonstration occurred after two months of effort by the GE BG in MND Southeast (MND-SE).
"What we have collected here, we destroy as a sign of peace and co-operation and a successful future of this country," explained German Brig. Gen. Bernd Kiesheyer, GE BG commander, during his address. The theme of co-operation could be easily witnessed throughout the day, as also in attendance were all those involved in making the operation a success. These included the mayors of the Opstinas (municipalities) in which the harvest had taken place as well as representatives from the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) and the Federation Army (VF).
"I am happy to be here, as the weapons are out of the wrong hands and have been destroyed. Secondly, that the members of the Armed Forces in BiH are meeting and talking with each other. I hope that this co-operation will extend into the future and that SFOR will continue to lend support too," said a VRS lieutenant colonel.
The demonstration was extremely well organised, with all attending having the chance to view the condemned weapons, which were laid in demolition pits. German 1st Lt. Suhr explained that in all cases the weapons and explosives would be rendered useless and that their remains would pose no threat to humans or animals. More importantly, they could never be used as weapons again.
In the demolition pits lay the arms, surrounded by carefully measured Nitor PNT explosive, and looked like thick slabs of pink icing. Wires ran from the detonators to the exploder. The weapons were of varied types: 5.54-12.1mm rounds, 12.7-40mm rounds, over 40mm calibre, rocket propelled grenades, mortar rounds, anti tank rounds, hand grenades, anti-personal and anti-tank mines. Some looked as if they were straight out of the packet; others lay brown and rusted with corrosion. All were potentially deadly.
The crowd once more retired to a safe distance, and while they waited for the explosions there was a chance to view the work of other elements of the GE BG. These included Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and de-mining stands.
"We go to the de-mining teams of the entity armies, and say if the process(and) how the teams work is okay or not. We clear no minefields. We act as monitors," said German Master Sgt. Ulrich Vogt, of the GE BG mine monitoring team. Also included, however, was a demonstration of German mine clearing units "in action" on a dummy minefield.
"More publicity is needed so that people can be better informed as to why weapons are being collected and what will happen if they remain in the wrong hands," said the VRS lieutenant colonel.
To ensure that this was the case, the Germans had arranged attendance of the press from both entities. These consisted of newspaper journalists, photographers and a television crew.
As the peals of the explosions died away the spectators were escorted to the demolition sight. There, craters greeted the visitors. Of the explosives, mines, rounds and rockets, nothing remained; complete obliteration was their fate. The small arms lay in a confused heap, contorted beyond use.
Kiesheyer thanked the crowd, which dispersed after a highly successful event. German Capt. Thomas Luhrig summed up the efforts: "Today demonstrated how important it is to save the whole country, especially for the children."

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Germany
SFOR at Work
Project Harvest