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French harvest

By Sgt. Michael Maddox
First published in
SFOR Informer #99, October 25, 2000

Konjic - With Project Harvest well underway in Multinational Division Southeast, soldiers from the French Battle Group have begun collection of unexploded ordnance and ammunition in their area of responsibility.
One of those areas north of Battle Group headquarters in Mostar is the town of Konjic. Completing a Harvest successfully in a town as large as Konjic takes a lot of hours of hard work, said, Capt. Bernard Poupon, commander for the recce company performing the harvest.
"We had a press conference in Mostar, then we started having small press conferences in all of the opstinas and towns. The meetings were to let all of the population know to gather their weapons during certain days," explained Poupon. "In Konjic, in three places, they are supposed to return weapons.
Poupon added, it has been a group effort to harvest the arms.
"We have IPTF and EAF, our squadron and some local authorities collecting them. We also have patrols collecting because we have a lot of people living around the zones who cannot get into town," he said.
At one of the sites, 1st Lt. Maxime Dotran serves as 2nd Platoon leader and coordinates the collection. It seems that there is not much to be harvested so far.
"Now we are five years after the war and we have done a lot of collecting days before," he said. "Most of the items we collect now are unexploded shells and grenades people find in their fields."
Dotran wasn't disappointed though as it was still early in the day and his plan for collection was still in motion. "This was a former confrontation line between Muslims and Serbs. That is why there's still a lot of ammunition," he said. "If you want to collect something, you must talk to the people. They only give you information if they are confident in you. If they don't believe what you say, they won't give you any information or ammunition. Our platoon has been here since August and the people are used to seeing us on the roads so we should see more later."
Closer to the end of the day Staff Sgt. Herve Ratelade, 3rd Platoon leader, and his team were seeing some of the fruits of all of the hard work put into the harvest effort.
"We have collected one mine, 56 - 7.9mm rounds, 139 - 5.56 rounds and 15 grenades," he told Poupon proudly. Ratelade went on to say he was very satisfied with the amount of munitions his team had harvested.
"I think it is good that we have collected so much because that means less dangerous items out there that could injure adults or children."

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: France