German Summer De-mining Campaign

Capt. Michael von Frankenberg
First published April 18, 2003

Within the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), even years after the end of the military conflict, there are still 18,000 mined areas with an estimated number of more than 290,000 mines, 240,000 of which are anti-personnel (AP) mines. Between 50 and 60 percent of the mined areas are known, which means that a large number of other unknown and dangerous areas are spread throughout the country.

Rajlovac - Rendering mined and presumably mined terrain sections ready for civilian reutilization is executed in accordance with the principles of humanitarian explosive device clearing, which means that a success rate of 99,6% must be achieved by the use of various mine-clearing techniques.
Prevent people from getting hurt
Some of our fellow soldiers in Camp Carreau, Rajlovac, may have wondered recently why there are regulations concerning the opening hours of the West Gate and the jogging trails as well as why there has been extensive marking work outside the fence of the camp.
The reason for this is the Summer De-mining Campaign of the Bosniac component of the Federation Army (VF-B), which started on March 17, 2003.
In the course of this campaign, the presumed mined area of far over 30,000 square metres alongside the south-western boundary of Camp Carreau is being cleared as well. This project has a high priority since the area is situated in a corridor through which a motorway is to run in the near future.
Due to the safety regulations in force, it is necessary to cordon off the danger zone during mine-clearing hours in order to prevent people from getting hurt by an exploding mine.
The same goes for the jogging trail along the inside of the camp fence which is inside the danger area.
The Bozena
The de-mining teams of the VF-B that are being employed here and who have had special training for their task, first marked the mined area and - where possible as far as the ground is concerned - removed vegetation using the so-called 'Bozena' equipment to clear the surface.
Afterwards, clearing lanes were traced for each de-miner employed there, and the de-miners, deployed at least 25 metres apart, began looking for mines. They wear protective clothing and use a prodder as well as a spacing bar. The latter enables them to stick the prodder into the ground continually at a distance of exactly 1,25 centimetres. In special cases metal detectors are used as well.
The high degree of exactness de-mining operations involve explains why an enormous amount of time is scheduled and why de-mining activities appear to make only slow progress. De-mining activities outside Camp Carreau are expected to last up to four months.
During the de-mining activities the teams are assessed by SFOR specialists called 'Mine Monitors' for the compliance of the techniques, safety regulations and mine-clearing guidelines set out in SFOR SOP (Standing Operating Procedure) 6690.
Mine Monitors also have to provide advisory support to the leader of the de-mining team where detection and disposal of explosive ordnance is concerned. They have to follow the de-miner into the cleared part of the mined area and, if need be, even go as far as the actual point where mines are being cleared.
From red to blue
The Mine Monitors of the German Combat Engineer Company have attended training courses at the Army Technical School in Aachen and at the Engineer School in Munich for this. These training courses enable them to monitor and advise the de-mining teams in accordance with the guidelines and to carry out Mine Awareness training in the theatre of operations, especially during weather-related stand-down periods.
At the moment German Mine Monitors monitor four, and Italian EOD teams monitor two, de-mining operations in the Area of Responsibility of the German-Italian Battle Group.
When a de-mining task is completed, the BiH Mine Action Centre (BH MAC) certifies the area cleared of mines by the employment of explosive detection dogs. Only then may the red Mined Area marking be replaced by the blue marking indicating a newly cleared area in the corresponding maps.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Germany
Engineering - Mines and De-mining

Click on thumbnail to enlarge
Photos: Capt. Michael von Frankenberg

A view of the fields surrounding Camp Carreau in Rajlovac.

Click on thumbnail to enlarge

A soldier from the Bosniac component of the Federation Army carefully checks the soil.

Click on thumbnail to enlarge

The first de-mining steps are made by the 'Bozena'.