End of an era for DETAIR

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Lt. Anne-Claude Gouy
First published in
SFOR Informer#155, January 9, 2003

After ten years of good and faithful service, the SFOR French Air Detachment (DETAIR) is leaving. By being the only unit to have stayed so long, its story is linked to that of the country, and its end means many changes for everybody, civilians and military.

GFAP
The departure of the DETAIR is completely appropriate to Annex 1A of the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP) in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"The Parties understand and agree that the IFOR (SFOR) Commander will implement the transfer to civilian control of air space over Bosnia and Herzegovina to the appropriate institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina in a gradual fashion consistent with the objective of the IFOR (SFOR) to ensure smooth and safe operation of an air traffic system upon IFOR departure."

Sarajevo - An important and complete Transfer of Responsibility (ToR) took place in Sarajevo at the end of the year. Indeed, the SFOR French DETAIR is handing over to Sarajevo International Airport everything concerning air traffic services within Sarajevo terminal control area and control traffic area, and airport operations including slot and parking area management. The normalisation assessment is taking a big step forward.

Ten years ago
From 1992 until 1995, during the war, Sarajevo's airport was managed completely by the French. In July 1992, the first setting up of the DETAIR took place in Sarajevo, few days after the air-bridge opening. It was created in order to ensure the airport was operational for the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and the UNPROFOR (United Nations Protection Force). It had an important part during the war, as much for the technical level and the human level. And that's of course the reason why it was often a favourite target. The current DETAIR Commander, Col. Jacques Robino, from the French Air Force, isn't in Sarajevo for the first time. "I was here in 1995 as a Team Chief of the Tactical Air Close Party, and then in 1996, and I noticed a big change: the canon fires stopped as we use to say. And it was a great relief," he said.
On Aug. 15, 1996, the civilian flights started up again, and since that time, everything goes on thanks to a complete co-operation between local people and SFOR soldiers.

Certain relief
"Since 1996, SFOR is giving back little by little some missions to the civilian authorities," said French Capt. Philippe Guyon, Air Traffic Control (ATC) Commander. This progressive handover isn't so easy for everybody because the civilian aviation get back the control of everything after a ten years of interruption. "It is a matter for the normalisation assessment. Every military controller had to leave Sarajevo on Jan.1st, 2003. We were prepared to leave, but we had particularly to prepare the civilian controllers," added Guyon. So, about 20 Bosnian Air Traffic Controllers have been trained since 1997, and the SFOR soldiers are very confident: "The young are very motivated to re-build their country. We worked with different ethnic groups, and there is no more animosity between them. The only thing that they want to work for is the future of the country," told Guyon. He's aware of having a special mission by being the last ATC Commander, and he hasn't forgotten the previous ten years "This airport is full of history. Every job done here is really palpable, anywhere I go."

Shared feelings
So much history shared between the airport and the DETAIR, between civilian and military, involves shared feelings. "It is always sad to see a unit dissolved. It's special to live these last moments. But it means that the peace comes back, the life is going on better and better, and that is our best motivation," said Robino. It's also for a practical reason: the moving. The ToR means also a transfer of the buildings. "There were 250 persons two years ago, 110 at the beginning of December, and we will be about 40 for one month in order to move everything."
And even in these particular conditions, civilian and military continue to share a lot of things. For example, the DETAIR dining facilities closed on Dec.15, so some of the soldiers were eating at the airport. "All our habits changed. We don't have any more privacy, sport facilities, we're living closer to each other, but everybody is so busy with clearing ten years of existence, it doesn't matter."

Some key figures
•Traffic:
-15,000 movements each year from 1999 to 2001
- 300,000 civilians every year; 60,000 military every year
•Transit freight: 9t/day
•Civilian freight: 18t/day
•Approximately 85 VIPs each month
(A movement corresponds to a landing or a take-off).

Exchanged signatures
In order to turn the page on these ten years, some personalities had to sign contracts. The transfer of responsibility from the SFOR to the local authorities took place at the end of last year. The first contract, a technical arrangement was signed on Dec. 20 by Maj. Gen. Jean-Pierre Meyer, DCOMSFOR, Mr Besim Mehmedic, Minister of Transport and Communications of Federation of BiH, and Mr Bakir Karahasanovic, General Manager of Sarajevo International Airport. It concerned all the ground handling services. The second one, confirmed on Dec. 23, was an implementing arrangement about Air traffic services and Air Operations. The General Manager gave to the SFOR DETAIR the best congratulation by saying: "We will try to do as well as the French soldiers did. We will be always grateful to them."
"Our successors are able and competent. A big step to the normalisation is made, also thanks to what our predecessors did during 10 years in order to assume their mission, confided by the United Nations, the IFOR and the SFOR," concluded Robino. And the co-operation will go on since the civilian will now check the military personal at the airport.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: France
SFOR at Work

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Photo: Sgt. Diego Ropero Pastor

A big step to the normalisation assessment was made with the signature of a technical arrangement between Mr. Besim Mehmedic, Ministry of Transport and Communications of Federation of BiH, Mr. Bakir Karahasanovic, General Manager of Sarajevo International Airport, and Maj. Gen. Jean-Pierre Meyer, DCOMSFOR.


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Photo: Courtesy of DETAIR

An aerial view of Srajevo airport, in the western suburb of the Bosnian capital.


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Photo: Courtesy of DETAIR

An aerial view of the DETAIR during the war.


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Photo: PO Steve Wood

Feb, 2002 - Maj. Gen. François de Goësbriand (background), then DCOMSFOR and Mr. Yves Lambert (on his left), Direction of BiH Civil Aviation's administrator, visit Zagreb Air Control Center.


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Photo: PO Susan Rose

Jun, 2002 - Fire fighters assist those casualties who are able to walk away from the simulated crash site. Exercice 'Red Wings' demonstated the abilities of the local fire team.


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Photo: PO Susan Rose

Jun, 2002 - Rescue workers from a local medic team quickly treat patients at the triage centre set up inside one of the fire brigade garages at the Sarajevo International airport. This exercise demonstrated the skills of the medic team assigned to the airport.