De-mining the future

1st Lt. Philippe Mouret
First published in
SFOR Informer#131, January 31, 2002

De-mining is vital for the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The consequences for victims of explosive devices are horrible. All the country's activities - agricultural, industrial, commercial, tourism and more, are all hindered by mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). The economic future of the country is critically dependent on mine clearance.

Camp Butmir - Mr. Milan Lovric, deputy minister for civil affairs and communication for BiH, presented his government’s strategy for de-mining to the Board of Donors, Dec. 11. He also spoke about his country's application to host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. At the same meeting the Mine Action Centre (MAC) unveiled its 2002 action plan. These statements presented expressed the desire of the local authorities to intensify de-mining efforts. The Board of Donors welcomed these comments and the progress made by Parliament’s discussion of the de-mining law.
War against mines
All the institutions and organisations involved in explosive device disposal displayed the same desire for action. Last week the Federation army (VF) announced its plan to clear between 1,745,000 and 2,343,000 square metres in 2002, a 59 percent increase from 2001.
Mr. Darko Kalas and Mr. Sead Vrana, civil protection operations officer and documentation officer respectively, participated in a meeting on this subject in SFOR headquarters, chaired by Capt. Donald Clarkson, Jan. 25. The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) staff officer and EOD team representatives from the three Multinational Divisions were present. Kalas recalled that, at the insistence of the International Community, Civil Protection became independent from the Ministry of Defence in January 2000. Civil Protection is mainly supported by a European-Union founded, German Non Govern-mental Organisation, known as Help UDT (Unexploded Ord-nance Disposal Teams). The cost of the destruction of each explosive device is 18.5 KM (€9.46). In 1999-2000, 99,488 mines and UXO were disposed of, 46 metric tons of explosives were destroyed and 400,000 square metres of land was cleared.
Not to be outdone, SFOR is making contributions to the Armed Forces in BiH by providing expert bomb disposal training.
Dogs and Robots
The mission of SFOR's EOD teams is to dispose of mines, UXOs and Improvised Explosive Device (IED) inside and around the coalition's installations, work areas and routes used by its soldiers. Civilian areas are not part of their responsibility, but, they can intervene in the case of danger to troops or at the request of local authorities.
After the meeting, German Battle Group EOD teams demonstrated their expertise, which combines up-to-date technologies with the natural ability of dogs. At one end of the spectrum, the remote control robot, 'Wheelbarrow,' is equipped with searchlights, cameras, pincers, rifles, and destructive charges. At the opposite end, dogs that use only their noses and their memories. Their sense of smell is 100,000 times more developed than that of humans.
Lt. Gen. John Sylvester, the commander of SFOR, said that he is very interested in de-mining. He plans to implement a more proactive policy. SFOR headquarters and the EOD teams will continue to work this issue.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Germany
Engineering - Mines and De-mining

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Photos: PO Steve Wood

Staff Sgt. Guy Kersting encourages his dog in its search, which takes less than five minutes.


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Fuchs armoured vehicles of the German Battle Group EOD team take up station at a safe distance from a suspect object.


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Staff Sgt. Guy Kersting encourages his dog in its search, which takes less than five minutes.


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The remote controlled robot 'Wheelbarrow' approaches its target.