Blasting at Lapov Dol

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Lt. Antonio Ruiz González
First published in
SFOR Informer#149, October 10, 2002

From Sept. 9-21 the Italian Battle Group (IBG) destroyed more than 40 tons of weapons and ammunition at the Lapov Dol range. The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team of the IBG carried out the mission. Most of these troops belong to the 7th Alpine Regiment 'Feltre' which is now the core of the battle group. This regiment has vast experience in operations in Kosovo, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Lapov Dol - The town is situated 45 kilometres south-west of Sarajevo. While driving along route Pacman to the south, one can admire the beautiful mountain ridge extending toward Tarcin, where the forest is deep.
A unique scenario
At the mountain, 20 kilometres away from everything, there is a smooth slope where the range is set up for the EOD team. For the task, the IBG was supported by other units from Multinational Division South-East (MND-SE), such as the divisional Engineers Unit from the Spanish Army, who moulded the terrain with their bulldozers, and a medical team from the French Army.
The range possesses all the necessary security measures. Furthermore, they never use a huge amount of explosives during demolitions. Capt. Roberto De Angelis, Italian Army, from MND-SE G3 Engineers, monitored the operation.
"We share this range with the Entities Army in. The divisional EOD teams, which work at this range, always use less than 100 kilograms per charge," said De Angelis.
Hard job
Because of the limitation in the amount of explosives, they repeat the operation six or seven times per day over a two-week period. Every day, early in the morning, they collect the material from Jahorinski Potok, near Pale, where the ammunition is stored having come from other places in the Republika Srpska (RS), such as Pale, Visegrad, and Tilava to name just a few.
"We transport the ammunition every day in our lorries and bring them here. The only thing we know is that it's going to be blown up every day," explained 1Lt. Fabrizio Rampiconi, EOD team leader.
"These weapons, or ammunition, have been declared obsolete or dangerous to store. Furthermore, we have an excellent co-operation with the RS Army, which is providing us with the explosive," underlined Rampiconi.
"We are going to destroy more than 12,400 UXO ranging from more than 9,000 hand grenades of different types, more than 1,500 mortar shells of several calibres, some 500 anti-tank rockets, several kinds of mines and even one anti-tank missile -- an AT-3 'Sagger'," he said.
The EOD team was helped in this mission by fellow troops from the IBG. They loaded and unloaded lorries again and again, several times a day. Once the troops had unloaded the material next to the demolition pit, they withdrew to a safe place, this is when the technical work of the EOD team began.
Deep at the hole
The demolition pits were really several holes that were dug by the excavator, six per day. At every demolition pit, three metres beneath ground level, two EOD members handled the ammunition with extreme caution. From hand grenades to rockets, mortar shells to mines, they perform their job carefully. Some of these men have vast experience in this field.
"This is my seventh mission abroad. Two times in Albania, one in Kosovo, one in Mozambique and three times here, working as a member of an EOD team," said WO2 Fabio Corpus.
In the bottom of every demolition pit there are lines of mortar shells or hand grenades.
"The mortars shells are carefully laid in two layers so that with a certain amount of them we do not surpass the explosive limitation for this range," explained Sgt. 1st Class Leonardo Carbone, EOD team member.
They used the same method with the different kinds of war material. By attaching all of them together by types, they got the best spread of explosives.
After doing this operation they prepared the charges with C4 plastic explosive, detonating cord and an electric firing system.
"The detonating cord is used in two different sides of the charge to ensure the ignition of it. By this way, we ensure the blast, otherwise if there is a delay or a failure in the explosion we would have to wait a long time before checking it out and repeating the whole operation," explained WO2 Graziano Conversini.
Last dance
Just one person remained in the demolition pit to install the electric blasting caps while the rest of the people waited in the security area, one kilometre away.
With the help of the blasting machine attached to the wires, they blew them up one by one without any delay or failure.
For those weapons and ammunition there was no option, only a last dance with C4 explosive.
After two weeks of working in Lapov Dol, the IBG and its men of the EOD team once again accomplished their assigned task, making this country more safe and secure.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Italy

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Photos: Sgt. Diego Ropero Pastor

A large mushroom cloud could be seen from the security area.


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A detonating cord is carefully attached to the charge.


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WO2 Graziano Conversini (l.) and WO2 Fabio Corpus form up the last layer of hand grenades on the demolition chamber.


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A 120mm mortar shell is pulled out of its case by WO2 Leonardo Carbone.


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Sgt. Donato Negro activates the blasting machine to enable the explosion of the charge.


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1Lt. Fabrizio Rampicone, EOD team leader, kneads C4 explosive in a demolition chamber.


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WO2 Leonardo Carbone sets up a stripe of C4 explosive over a layer of 120 mm mortar shells.