A Huge Explosion!
Lt. Pedro Fernández Vicente
First published in
SFOR Informer#139, May 23, 2002
During the first week of May, the French Engineer Platoon,
belonging to the French Battle Group (FRBG), carried out the
destruction of the ammunition and weapons seized, or collected
within Multinational Division South-East's (MND-SE) Area of
Responsibility. The ammunition seized in Vrapcici (see
SFOR Informer # 138) were part of the load. Kalinovik
firing range was the location for the detonation.
Kalinovik - Throughout the week big explosions broke the
silence of the mountains in a repetitive sequence: for seven
days, three times a day, the explosions' blasts sounded early
in the morning, at noon and in the early evening.
The bottom of a deep and narrow gully, in the most remote
location on Kalinovik range, was the best place to avoid unnecessary
"My Platoon has been assigned to destroy the crop of
the last phase of the MND-SE's Harvest Operation. We have
been reinforced with a French Infantry Platoon, which was
in charge of: providing security for our temporary ammunition
depot, to maintain a safety area around the demolition point
and to control all the accesses to Kalinovik range during
our stay here. We have also been reinforced with an excavator
from the German BG. We carried out our labour by doing controlled
explosions of 300 mortar shells each time. The maximum safety
area in this range is a 1,500m radius from point zero; that
allows this number of mortar shells to be detonated at the
same time," explained Lt. David Gomez, leader of the
French engineer platoon.
"We received the ammo daily. We had to keep some in our
temporary depot while we went to destroy other ammo, in such
a way to ensure that the temporary store is empty at the end
of the day. The process which we followed was: flatten the
bottom of the gully, dig the demolition pit with the excavator;
build the charge; cover it and crush the earth; the detonation;
check the effects and start again," Gomez said.
Gomez explained how the mortar shells are placed in the pit,
why the explosion is tamped and that the weather conditions
are all critical in ensuring that all of the shells are destroyed
and that the local villagers are not overly disturbed by the
explosions. His team of experts prepared each pit with attention
to these details and to safety issues.
Safety is a main concern
"There is a thing that is really true which is that the
mistakes you make when working with explosives are paid for
with your life. There is no place for absentmindedness or
forgetfulness. Your entire mind has to be concentrated on
your job and your only thought is about it. Although it could
seem that when you repeat the same operation three times a
day, your work would become monotonous, that is not so. Each
new demolition pit becomes a new challenge, you are in a new
world completely different to the one before and your attention
is totally focused on your labour," said Staff Sgt. Pascal
Desremaux, deputy of the French Engineer platoon.
Nations of SFOR: France
Related link: SFOR