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 environment.

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 village.
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 Battle Group.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Italy

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