Harvest time in Bosnia-Herzegovina
Sgt. Thomas Farley Jr.
First published in
SFOR Informer#154, December 19, 2002
It's "Harvest" time in Bosnia and Herzegovina,
and for the men of Apache Troop, the term "Bag Lady"
has suddenly taken on a whole new meaning. Apache Troop A,
1st Squadron, 104th Cavalry is fully engaged in the weapons
collection phase of Op Harvest, going door-to-door in the
towns and villages, close to the Croatian border.
Tolisa - The concept of the operation is to give the population
an opportunity to voluntarily surrender illegal and unwanted
weapons and munitions.
So far, the 'crop' has been plentiful and the cooperation
of the townspeople has occasionally been astonishing.
"If it's happened once, it's happened a dozen times,"
explains Spc. Paul Miller. "A little old lady will shuffle
down the path from her house with a shopping bag. She'll put
it on the ground near the street, make a dismissive gesture
with one hand and tell our interpreter she doesn't need this
stuff anymore. We'll look into the bag and find a bunch of
machine gun ammunition and hand grenades. Amazing! This isn't
some partisan warrior who just woke up. I'm talking about
Troop Commander Eric E.L. Guenther Jr., believes the phenomenon
makes perfect sense. "Beyond the numbers and necessities,
there's a human perspective to peacekeeping. Our Active Harvest
efforts are an important part of what we can do to help them
achieve the future they want."
No longer reluctance
Throughout the country, and especially in areas where 'ethnic
cleansing' was perpetrated with murderous consequences for
men, women and children of all he region's cultural traditions,
there has been a reluctance to surrender weaponry stashed
away in barns, haystacks and basements. "What happens,"
many citizens wondered, "if the Americans leave? What
if the war comes again?"
Clearly, though, the tide of fear is changing. Guenther is
delighted but not surprised. "One clear impact of years
of active SFOR presence, and the peace that has prevailed
as a result, is that all of these illegal weapons have become
more of a liability than a means of self-defense. One of the
most common manifestations of the Harvest we see is the parent
who presents us with a bag full of explosive devices."
In the village of Tolisa, Staff Sgt. Nick Bowden and his squad
were approached by a shy but determined five-year-old named
Djuro Dedic. "I have weapons," the boy told the
squad's interpreter, Hasan "Hansy" Sakic.
When a dismounted element followed the boy to his home, he
darted inside and soon reappeared with a fearsome arsenal
of machine guns, rifles and pistols - all made entirely of
"This kid had listened to his parents and grandmother
talking about the harvest," said Bowden. "It was
his own idea to turn in his guns to make the village safe,
and he was damned proud of his decision."
A perfect win-win solution
In Gradacac, Sgt. Peter Cachion was searching for a solution
to the problem of distributing posters and flyers promoting
Op Harvest. In a stroke of genius, he visited the Hasan Kikic
High School and asked the principal if his students could
help. The principal, Halil Hasanovic, responded enthusiastically.
"It turns out that the students there had performed a
similar service for a mine awareness program through a relationship
they had with an earlier SFOR rotation," Cachion said.
"They even have an individual assigned to coordinate
this kind of activity. For the Harvest operation, it's a perfect
"It's all about relationships," concluded Sgt. 1st
Class Bevan Cummin, platoon sergeant. "The success of
our efforts - peacekeeping in general and this weapons harvest
in particular - rides on our ability to form real relationships
with the people, based on mutual respect."
Nations of SFOR: US