Panting Dogs And Prodding Sticks

Lt Col R A Piper GBR A
First published in
SFOR Informer#172, August, 2004

The message on the torn, sweaty T-shirt is "Be Mine Aware"; the mine threat is something the commander of the T-55 Liberator mine clearance tank is keen to tell everyone! But what worried him more, as he rested in the sun, was seeing DCOM SFOR striding towards him down the safe-lane from the wood that marked the edge of the minefield. If that wasn't enough to make him instantly batten down the hatches, then the handful of senior Federation Army Staff Officers was!

The scene marked the end of a highly productive and informative visit to a Federation Army demining site in the north of BiH some 5 kms south of Orasje. This particular demining operation, conducted by the VF-H, employed all the main techniques available to the Entity Armed Forces in their efforts to reduce the 2700 km2 of land suspected of harbouring a mine or UXO hazard. After a very thorough briefing on the history of the task and the demining capabilities of the VF DCOM saw Explosive Detection Dogs, the T55 Liberator and most importantly met the manual deminers who had been on the site for the last four months.
It was literally a flying visit, courtesy of a Canadian Griffin helicopter, spending just over an hour at the task site. However, this was long enough in helmet, visor and body armour to appreciate the discomfort and degradation of working in these conditions. Looking around at the well-used and make-do state of equipment DCOM quizzed the platoon commander on the level of support he received and the attitude of the local farmers whose land he was clearing. Through a very hot, and visibly weakening, translator it was a surprise to hear that the locals were not enthusiastic about seeing the Army despite the fact that they were doing this invaluable and highly dangerous work.
A productive visit? I should say so, not only did DCOM give the T-55 commander a fresh T-shirt, but within a week the demining company received a new issue of boots and uniforms courtesy of Brigadier Pikaus, commander of VF Logistics.

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The T-55 Liberator mine clearance tank.


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