SFOR rids Bosanski Brod of dangerous
Maj. Jarrod Krull
First published in
SFOR Informer#166, October, 2003
Unexploded ordnance is a terribly legacy of war that poses
an unpredictable hazard to human life. This past Sunday, the
threat posed by two Second World War 500-pound bombs that
lay slightly submerged beneath the Sava River running through
Bosanski Brod was eliminated due to the efforts of local citizens
and authorities, the soldiers of the Multinational Battle
Group (MNBG) from SFOR's Multinational Brigade-North and a
French Underwater Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team's
Bosanski Brod - Local citizens initially discovered one of
the bombs located about 200 metres west of the bridge (and
only about 10 metres from the river bank) that connects Croatia
to Bosnia and Herzegovina about a month ago. Once notified,
the local authorities contacted the government's demining
team who in turn, sought the expertise of SFOR EOD teams to
develop a solution that would eliminate the hazardous ordnance
it was believed to be a result of bombing that was intended
for the bridge more than a decade ago.
Two 500 pound bombs
Upon investigation by all involved, it was determined that
special equipment and expertise in underwater demolition would
be required to safely neutralize the bombs. Later, another
bomb was identified approximately 50 meters away by another
group of children who reported it to an SFOR patrol. As a
precaution, the Polish EOD from the MNBG marked the location
of the bomb with stakes and mine warning tape until a specialized
unit could be called upon for assistance.
Portuguese Army Lt. Col. Jose Fernandes, operations and training
officer for the MNBG, was initially tasked with finding the
necessary expertise to solve this difficult problem. "Our
EOD teams told us that it would be extremely dangerous to
destroy the bombs on site as they were located close together
and close to a populated area," said Fernandes. He added
that, "While all the demolition teams possessed the expertise
to destroy the bombs in place, they determined that because
of their size and the expected blast, it would be unsafe to
destroy them where they were located."
With the support of Chief of Operations, Colonel Reinhard
Wolfski, it was discovered that a French Navy EOD team was
scheduled to take part in a training exercise in Slovenia
this week. The MNBG staff contacted the team and coordination
was made to move them and their necessary equipment to Bosanski
Brod from their ship located in port at Split, Croatia.
While the French demolition divers awaited the arrival of
their raft and specialized ordnance removal equipment, they
investigated the bombs to determine what precautions were
necessary to safely handle them and move them to a demolition
site some five kilometres down river - where the river's depth
was greater and further away from the local population.
"The bombs were located in a very difficult place - making
this the toughest mission I have had to accomplish, "
said Master Chief Robin Gregory, a six-year demolition team
Gregory explained that while the bombs were located underwater,
the fact that they were in a shallow depth with limited visibility
due to the silt carried by the current made his work extremely
difficult. The shallow water limited the buoyancy needed to
move the bombs safely without obstruction and the limited
visibility made it difficult to determine the condition of
each bomb and the status of the fusing used to arm them -
but which had not caused detonation upon impact.
Once the team's inflatable boat and specialized removal equipment
arrived by helicopter, operations began to move the bombs
to their designated destruction site.
At the same time, the coordinated security efforts of local
police and Portuguese soldiers ensured that the bridge and
surrounding roads were closed to traffic as an added safety
100 metre high geyser
During the daylong process, each bomb was carefully lifted
and wrapped in an inflatable lift bag that was secured and
filled with air - causing the bomb to rise to the surface.
Once complete, the bomb was towed down river, submerged, and
then fixed with demolition explosives by the divers. After
the area was cleared, the bombs were blown up, sending a geyser
of water nearly 100 metres into the air.
After operations were complete, Lt. Col. Fernandes praised
those involved. "This operation is an example of what
can be done through the combined efforts of local citizens
and SFOR troops- the destruction of these bombs will definitely
make Bosanski Brod a safer and more stable community. This
is a true success. Two weeks ago it was believed that we would
not be able to do this until next year. Instead, the entire
operation took little more than 12 hours."
Nations of SFOR: France