A Spring full of Gifts
1Lt. Alberto Salvador
First published April 23, 2003
On Apr. 15 the 217th Alpini Antitank Company 'Val Maira',
part of the German-Italian Battle Group, carried out a search
operation in a village near from Rogatica in Republika Srpska.
During this operation many weapons and ammunition were found.
The operation, called 'Spring Gifts', was in accordance with
the primary mission of SFOR to contribute to a safe and secure
The 217th Alpini Antitank Company has been in Bosnia and
Herzegovina (BiH) since November 2002. It has been four months
that daily patrols monitor the five Opstina (Municipalities)
in its Area of Responsibility. Nothing is able to stop the
patrols: neither the snow, nor the cold, nor the ice. After
four months it was time to reap the fruits of their labours.
Houses, haylofts and barns
And this time the fruits were 40 rifles, 15 M-80 light rocket
launchers, 40 hand grenades, 1,100 detonators, 35,000 bullets
of various calibre, 30 pistols, two machine guns, 30 kg explosives,
60 rifle bomb and 30 mines. Everything was planned and organised
in ecery detail. The 1st Platoon and the 'Alpieri' Platoon
carried out the search activity while the 2nd and the 4th
Platoon surrounded the villages. The 3rd Platoon, as well
as the 2nd Platoon of the Quick Reaction Force from the Multinational
Brigade Southeast Company, were ready to intervene if needed.
The co-ordination among the platoons and the timetable were
fully respected. "This is the reason why Easter Egg operation
was so successful," explained Capt. Christian Bison,
commander of the 217th Antitank Company.
The operation began very early in the morning. The villagers
were awakened by the noise of the vehicles and when they opened
their doors the houses were already surrounded. After a few
minutes two helicopters flew over their heads: one of them
had two 'Vulcan' machine guns mounted. The surprise had just
come out of the Easter Egg. With such a deployment nobody
could enter or get out of the village. So the Italian soldiers
could begin their search of the houses, the haylofts, and
the barns. Nothing was overlooked and in fact after some minutes
the soldiers began to find rifles in the chimneys, bags of
ammunition in the hay, magazines under the floor and so on.
It took all of the day to deeply search every corner of the
Not the first time
"It wasn't the first time that I took part in a search
operation but this time the weapons and ammunition were hidden
everywhere and we needed a lot of experience and creativity
to find the forbidden items in such unexpected places,"
said Sgt. Andrea Vittorio, deputy commander of 1st Platoon.
"The operation was successful thanks to our soldiers,
to their preparation and to the training in Italy before coming
here in BiH. The worrying fact is that this operation showed
that many people have, and want to have, weapons in their
homes. This means that SFOR troops still have a lot of work
if they want to promote and create a peaceful environment
in which the future generations can grow up," commented
Lt. Alberto Salvador, 217th Antitank Company deputy commander.
The local police was present during the operation. Two teams
from European Union Police Mission (EUPM) followed the operation
in order to control and monitor the local police behaviour.
The operation was performed near the Inter-Entity Boundary
Line (IEBL) where a lot of mine fields and booby traps are
located. That is why two EOD teams were present. It was essential
not only to create a safe climate for the soldiers but also
to recognise and to catalogue the items found.
These results are only the tip of the iceberg: this is the
visible work. But there is also a hidden one, made of day
after day patrols, credit checks, escorts, guard and information
gathering. Since November 2002, the vehicles of the 217th
Antitank Company covered a distance like 5 rounds of the world.
There is a lot of work to do but the morale is high. In addition
there is the curiosity and the enthusiasm given by the co-operation
with German colleagues from the newly constituted German-Italian
Nations of SFOR: Italy