HARVEST Collection Starts with a Moment of Shock

Capt. Markus Herholt
First published in
SFOR Informer#169, February, 2004

Miljevina - "We were setting up the collection point this morning when a car came up, a man rolled down the window and threw out four hand grenades", said MSgt Roy Trenkel, patrol leader from 2 TF Coy in Filipovici. The soldiers of his patrol, supported by EOD, medical and Service Coy personnel, began a three-day HARVEST collection campaign on Wednesday.
On the outskirts of the village of Miljevina, in the Republika Srpska, MSgt Trenkel's patrol prepared a collection point where people could hand in the illegal explosives, ordnance and weapons in their possession. "We chose this place because it had already been used in previous collection campaigns", explained the patrol leader.
The above incident, in which the car sped off after the grenades had been thrown out, occurred right at the beginning. "I immediately ordered my men to take cover, which they did on the spot", said MSgt Trenkel. Fortunately, the hand grenades had not been armed so they did not explode. Since the unknown driver obviously just wanted to get rid of his "wartime waste" anonymously, the collection proper could subsequently begin.
During the mid-morning hours of Wednesday, many people handed their illegal "property" over to the 2 TF Coy patrol. Some came in cars to the collection point, but many also on foot. Whenever something was handed over, the prescribed "procedure" began immediately: The items were taken over either by the Serb soldiers present or by German EOD personnel. "Our specialists take charge of the weapons, explosives and other ordnance, such as hand grenades. They then carry out a security check and make sure that the material is safe to handle and to move", explained Maj Paul Wolters, the responsible EOD Staff Officer of the German-Italian Battle Group.
People have greater confidence in Harvest if they see their own Army involved in it!
"The safety levers and fuzes of hand grenades, for instance, are secured with adhesive tape because the locking pins are often rusty, brittle or have been replaced with wire. Before being removed to the »ammunition field supply point« at Camp Rajlovac, they are packaged in insulating material. The items handed in are stored in so-called »Harvest containers« before being destroyed", said one of the EOD specialists. A transport permit issued by the ammunition technician in charge is required to move them.
The specialists of the EOD team then explained to the soldiers present that this kind of handling was exclusively their responsibility because only they were appropriately trained and specifically authorised by the Commander of the German-Italian Battle Group. "Anyone touching hand grenades which have not previously been checked by EOD personnel puts his own life and that of his comrades at risk. And apart from that, he disobeys orders", said Maj Wolters. His advice to anyone who discovers ordnance: "Consult the »Pocket Guide for All-Arms Explosive Ordnance Reconnaissance (EOR)«, then think of EMMA" - which is short for Erkennen [identify], Markieren [mark], Melden [report], Absperren [cordon off].
All in all, MSgt Trenkel, who was in charge of the entire HARVEST operation in Miljevina, was quite satisfied with the result achieved during the first three hours. "We established good relations with the population in the run-up to the operation. Winning their trust is most important because otherwise nobody would hand in their weapons, munitions or explosives voluntarily. What is essential is smooth cooperation with the local police, the military and local authorities", said the patrol leader.
With the help of Cpl Jadranko Schick, who serves as a patroller and interpreter with 2 TF Coy, we interviewed Cpt Slavko Vukovic from the VRS. With two of his comrades, he supported the collection campaign and was positively surprised: "This is the first HARVEST operation in which we are allowed to participate, and we are very pleased about it. I believe people have greater confidence in Harvest if they see their own Army involved in it."

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Germany
Project Harvest

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Photos: Cpl. Heinemann

Once the security measures have been taken, the items can be inspected and explained close up.

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VRS personnel check the weapons handed in.

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The "harvest" after three hours: hand grenades, ammunition, weapons.