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Operation Harvest knows no limits

By Lt. ystein Paulsen
First published in
SFOR Informer #72, 13 Oct, 1999

Gornji Vakuf/ Bugojno - The Scottish soldiers of the 1st Battalion Royal Highland Fusiliers (1RHF), Battle Group South, Multinational Division South West (MND-SW), based in Gornji Vakuf, claim to have the best Operation Harvest results of the Battle Groups in the British lead Division. "Operation Harvest is not a competition, but 1RHF has collected more weapons, explosives and ammunition than any other Battle Group in the Division," said Lt Col Niall Campbell the Commanding Officer 1RHF.

As of mid September the 1RHF Battle Group has collected over 1,000 hand-grenades, 60 rifles and machine guns, over 20.000 small arms rounds, and 40 anti-tank rocket launchers during the previous four months. "All the local Mayors, Chiefs of Police and local TV stations have been a great help," said Lt Col Campbell. Operation Harvest is meant to encourage the local population to handle in illegally held weapons, explosives and ammunition. "We started Operation Harvest as soon we took over responsibility here, and now we run Operation Harvest every week, in close support of the local police. Our patrols regularly visit the many villages in our Area of Operations (AO). They encourage the civilians to hand in weapons, ammunition and explosives by knocking on every single door and making friends with the locals," Lt Col Campbell added. Operation Harvest is an ongoing Entity-led weapons, ordnance and warlike material amnesty running throughout BiH. The programme allows civilian leaders and citizens to contribute in creating a safer and more secure environment. Due to the successful response to Operation Harvest, the deadline has been extended indefinitely.

Twice weekly soldiers from B Company 1RHF, conduct Operation Harvest in their AOR. "A few days before we conduct the operation, we carry out a survey or recce of the area to inform the locals that we are coming, and to tell them where they can deliver any weapons or ordnance that they might have in their possession. We hand out leaflets and broadcast the details with the help of local radio stations. Another important reason for the recce is to find a safe place to establish a site for a weapons pit," said 2Lt Nick Abram, the commander of the 5th Platoon, B Company, 1RHF. On the day a Warrior armoured fighting vehicle serves as the command post at the main Operation Harvest site. From this base, several patrols are sent out into the villages or towns where the operation is being held. "Each patrol consists of four soldiers, one interpreter and a local police officer. Because of the Recce and information Campaign the locals are usually ready with any items that they want to hand in. If the patrol is offered anything, the Commander radios the command post, and a Landrover is sent to pick up the weapons so that the patrol can continue their work," Abram adds. However, if the soldiers are offered any munitions or mines they have a "No touch" policy. "That way our soldiers and the civilians are not endangered. The Royal Engineers Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team will be called in to deal with it. They are the experts when it comes to disposing of dangerous munitions and will clear every piece of weaponry that is handed in. They are always nearby when an Operation Harvest is going on. Everything that is handed in is placed in the weapons pit for added safety." 2Lt Abram went on to say, "When we are dealing with numbers of collected items, our Battle Group has the best record within the whole Division. We have collected and disposed of everything from small arms, hand-grenades and anti-tank mines to Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG), 180mm shells and military explosives."

1RHF Media Officer, Captain Marcus Luckyn-Malone explained that "1RHF has an excellent relationship with the local people within its AOR. "Through regular patrolling and Operation Harvests we have got to know them well and built up an important level of trust. They know that we are helping them to secure a better future by disposing of these dangerous weapons and munitions for them. Operation Harvest has been so successful and is now so well known that the soldiers are regularly approached during normal patrols with more items to be destroyed, he said."

For more about the United Kingdom participation in SFOR: UK