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Explosive Detecting Dog Team conducts countermine training

By Maj. Ladislav Ruzicka
First published in
SFOR Informer #95, August 30, 2000

Bihac - Six Entity Armed Forces (EAF) personnel, two from each, are currently undergoing training at Canine Countermine, the dog training branch of the Canadian International De-mining Centre.
The training is funded by the Norwegian government, who paid the cost of the six German Shepherds bought in the Czech Republic, and by the Canadian government who provides monetary support of the dog training school. The whole project costs about $145,000.
The Director of the Canadian International De-mining Centre, Brian Smith, said the goal of the program is to prepare local soldiers for canine mine detection.
"This course is part of the Canadian government mine action plan for Bosnia. Our mandate is to increase local capacity for mine detection dogs," said Smith. He also serves as the chief for the Balkans de-mining program with dogs involving Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.
The EAF provides the largest de-mining effort in BiH and their productivity and capability levels are ever increasing. One part of the capability enhancement is the use of EDDTs.
According to Maj. Giles McCallum, British Chief of Mines Intelligence at HQ SFOR Engineer Branch, three dog teams will be trained to clear the same amount of ground as 40 de-mining teams.
McCallum is author of the Entity Army EDDT Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) that are to be used in conjunction with the Entity Army Mine Clearance Operations SOPs when de-mining occurs.
According to McCallum, SOPs of the EDDT are to be used only in areas of low or unknown mine threat. Any area that has a known mine threat must be cleared with manual methods. EDDT can only be used on sites that have already been set up by a manual Countermine Team and had the ground prepared by mechanical or manual de-mining. The EDDT consists of two handlers with one dog each.
The training started June 26 and will end with its final exam around the end of October. Three international instructors have been training the EAF trainees.
Canadian, Ron Mistafa, is the chief instructor of the course. He spent 16 years in the Calgary Police service, and he was a chief instructor there for 11 years. Mistafa took many courses across the world. Now he is responsible for ensuring that the training is effective and efficient, and done according to SOPs in specified times.
"The handlers have to cope with a lack of knowledge regarding dogs because this is something new for them. We teach them to become a partner with the dog. They have never been handlers," said Mistafa. "Now they must take care of the dogs and learn about scent theory.
"They must be able to understand the story the dog is telling them about the box (area for de-mining). The dogs must consistently be able to tell the handler that they have found the mines within a 10-centimetres accuracy," clarified Mistafa.
"Our difficulty is the language. The handler must be able to give corrections to his dog immediately. Because we have to use interpreters, the time takes longer and all training time is increased. We also use a lot of chalk on the runway for explanations (training is ongoing in areas around a former airport)," said Mistafa.
Gert Du Plessis is an instructor from South Africa with a lot of experience.
"I served in military, in Police Public Safety, and there I started training with de-mining dogs. It was 16 years ago," he said.
Trainee Cpl. Pepo Pavic, a Bosnian Croat serving in the Military Police said he is enjoying the challenge of learning a new task.
"This is my first time as a dog handler. The most difficult for me is to understand the dog. But I like this job because we are making a team with the dog," he said.
Bosnian Serb Staff Sgt. Srdan Koprivica, an infantry platoon commander, is more experienced.
"I have my own dog at home. The war has taught me that you can trust the animal more than the person," he said.
McCallum, is satisfied with the training.
"The trainers have indicated to me that when they finish this course, they don't want to train civilians again. They find the EAF soldiers to be very keen, hard working and disciplined," said McCallum.
That discipline has paid off as the soldiers both live and work together during the training.
"The handlers all live together in Bihac. They also work together, socialise together and despite the religion or background, they are successfully and happily working to achieve a common goal," explained McCallum.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: UK
Engineers - mines