Key appointments in the squadron are:
These updates orginially were published most recent to oldest. I have re-arranged the order. I have also removed contact phone numbers as by this date they will not be usable.
The Christmas holiday has passed relatively quietly for the engineers, with most of the thoughts turned towards friends and family back home and the occasional windstorm (75km/h+) reminding us that mother nature out here is a little unpredictable at the best of times. With the New Year approaching, we would now like to wish our friends and families back home a safe and happy holiday
The weather here has been quite extreme. Last week we had very strong winds and the firehall was close to flying away like a large kite! We learned our lesson on the second day of winds, and had everything secured, although it was a camp wide effort to tie everything down. Things then returned to normal for a few days (ie rain, rain and more rain leading to more mud!) and then things turned colder just before New Year's. In the spirit of the season, a snowstorm dropped about 20cm of snow on New Year's Eve and everyone is still shoveling out around the camp. All personnel are now in the weatherhavens and both heaters are on, allowing for a comfortable place to go at the end of the day. Heavy Equipment has been very busy trying to keep the roads cleared. It took some ingenuity on their part to design a sander that can be used until the rest of the equipment shows up next week.
On behalf of everyone here we would like to thank all of our loved ones who sent use "goody boxes" over the holidays. In the spirit of sharing, lots of the home baked good were passed around the Squadron over Christmas and New Year's. Everyone also received a package from PSP with Operation Santa Claus. It included goodies ranging from a kitbag to Tim Horton's coffee. The coffee was by far the most popular item and stores were pooled in each of the Troop CP's. - CHIMO
The Airfield Engineers who form 1 Troop have been extremely busy. They have finished installing the Weather Havens, but have four more Weather Haven ablution facilities to install. They are also busy preparing to construct a second kitchen facility that will allow 430 Sqn to close their Field Kitchens and eat with the rest of the camp's populace. Due to a shortage of electrical generators, the provision of electricity has been a challenge. The attention paid to them by the Electrical Generation Technicians however has ensured we have the electricity we need, despite the overtime hours required.
2 Tp is working on several projects. A bad snow storm, by local standards, hit just before Christmas, and the reverberations from its impact are still being felt. The result of this has been a difficult time for the civilian population who had homes damaged during the hostilities. For this reason, 2 Troop has been very busy working on roofing repairs or replacement on several homes. This same storm also had an adverse effect on the highways. This has kept 2 Troop's Heavy Equipment Section occupied with snow and ice control, as well as some jobs here in the camp. Compounding these challenges is the fact that the road infrastructure has been very hard done-by in the past few years. This means that a lot of work is required to make the roads safe and easy to use. So the Heavy Equipment Section has been out and about getting repairs underway. A challenge made all the more difficult by the cold and bad weather. Another large project on the go is the closure of the road through the local market. The purpose of this is to alleviate traffic through this area and improve traffic and pedestrian safety for market-goers.
It would seem that just doing all these tasks would be sufficient to keep one working from sunup to sunset. But there are several other tasks that add to the workload. There are recces required for upcoming projects. There are trouble calls to repair different facets of the camp infrastructure like broken water mains. Operational tasks can come at any time. When taken all together, it is not difficult to see how our personnel are "busy as beavers".
Of course our lives here are not all work, work, work. There is also time to stop and have a good laugh to lighten things up. As an example, we all had a good giggle over one Sapper who shall remain nameless. Seems he was tired of his callsign, and decided to change it suddenly and abruptly one day in the shower. He is now known as "TOWEL SNAPPER" after he mistook one officer for his buddy in the shower.
That's it for this week. This website will be updated at the same time next week. Be sure to check out our telephone info line at *-***-***-**** and follow the instructions. Please note though, that in selecting 23 Engineer Squadron, you must select the 1 RCR Battle Group site first.
The troops from 41 AEF, (nominally our 1 Troop) have been spread across the entire spectrum of activities this week. Our Electrical Generating Systems and Waste Fuels and Environment technicians have done yeomanís service in keeping the camps supplied with water and electricity. As camp construction continues, so do the labours of the carpenters, electricians and plumbers. On the safety front, the firefighter training started in earnest as several volunteers linked up with the Fire Department to improve on an already Ďiron-fistedí Fire Safety Policy.
The overall 2 Troop organization has also kept itself quite busy the past seven days. A warm trend in the weather has given the Heavy Equipment Section the opportunity to "shave" the roads and get rid of a significant amount of ice---giving them a leg up on the Snow and Ice Control tasks. The field engineers have had the opportunity to work on Civil-Military Cooperation Tasks, (CIMIC) literally putting roofs over a few familiesí heads. When not providing for the local communities, our field sections have worked around the camp, either assisting in 1 Troopís efforts, or on a myriad of culvert tasks. Of course, the recce det has continued to go out into the wilderness in an effort to find out which routes are passable---and which oneís arenít.
Of particular importance to many of the field troops is the arrival of the R & R season on the 18 th of January. This forward recce of troops are being looked to for a great deal of information as to "what to do" in a new part of the world for this kind of thing.
Thatís about all for this week. We will be updating this message at the same time next week. Further updates can be reached through the UN information line (you have to go through the 1 RCR Battle Group section first) at *-***-***-****
After being told we were going to Kosovo on a TAV, all of our inquiring minds wanted to know what the acronym TAV stood for. The answer would have to wait until we arrived in theatre. We had much more important things to contend with prior to departure with only a couple of day's notice. With a team that consisted of an Electrician, Plumber, Electrical Generating Systems (EGS) Tech, and four outstanding Field Engineer Electrical Apprentices, we were all anticipating our arrival to Kosovo. Getting the TAV into Kosovo would prove to be the toughest task of the mission. The journey began in Petawawa with two minivans; we looked at the vans and asked ourselves "Do we need all this kit?" After ten minutes a van was replaced with a 10-ton truck, and the peasants rejoiced. The road move was a military first as the HLVW beat the minivan to Trenton. After being politely asked by the Traffic Techís to remove all of the road salt from our kit we were ready to load the kit onto the airbus. After 8 hours in the sky with the sounds of "South Parkís Terrance & Phillip" we were all happy to finally be in the Balkans.
The accommodations at the hotel in Zagreb were quite comfortable. Our 5 am departure started out as a minor scuffle between taxi drivers, but we soon arrived at the airport. After a short test drive around the airport the pilots deemed the unusually large amount of smoke coming from one engine to be unsafe and decided to land for repairs.
The next day we finally made our last leg of the journey. We departed Skopje after an hour of sleepy eyed ROE training. After a long wait at the border we arrived to see Weather Haven Heaven. The next day during some quick introductions we were asked if we were the much-anticipated "Technical Assistance Visit". Alas we knew who we were.
The mission of the TAV is to winterize the Canadian campís utilities and helps bring up all of the campís level of comfort. With minus 30 weather pipes had frozen, pumps seized and heaters had been unable to cope. After liberating Sgt Parisí "Bernie" tools we started work.
Since arrival the TAV team has been involved in numerous tasks. The electrician and apprentices fanned out to deal with all of the heaters that had mysteriously showed up on the power grid. After upgrading camp DKís power distribution they moved on to the other camps.
After repairing all of the damaged pumps the plumber went to work on a new dish washing facility. He is now working on maintaining the ablution facilities within all of the campís.
After repairs and maintenance to the camps generators the EGS tech moved on to the NSE to cover off the duties of his counterpart gone on HLTA. With much work still to be done and only three weeks until our departure our days are action packed and fun filled. Look forward to seeing us repairing something at a location near you.
The most notable task in regards to size is no doubt the ongoing culvert placement throughout the AOR. A crew averaging about twenty departs daily to a new location to construct a seriously needed culvert on the rapidly deteriorating roads. The crew consists of one Engineer Cpl commanding a small heavy equipment det and 14 former KPC workers. Cpl House supervises all pers on site - which includes paying the workers, many of whom would have far out ranked him a few years earlier. The culverts are placed in locations where roads are washing away due to the seemingly non-existing drainage system. Many roads that would have otherwise been impassable are now used daily by Kosovars as well as Canadian patrols.
Not to be outdone, Sgt (Bob Vela) Cotter and his section have been hard at work constructing a toilet for a school in Radevo. This state of the art structure comes complete with four holes, two doors that likely cost more then the rest of the structure, and genuine plexiglass windows so the kids can actually see when they are inside the toilet. (The plexiglass was a last minute addition). Plans to have the toilet dramatically airlifted in by 430 Helicopter Squadron fell through at the last minute so it will be un-ceremoniously trucked in.
Sgt Wraight and his section, with great fanfare, completed a NSB (Non Standard Bridge, ie a wooden Bridge) on 3 March with bad weather looming. Less than two hours after the completion of the bridge, a flash flood hit the area and took the waters from one foot deep to the top of the stringers of the bridge. The water had risen over four feet in less than two hours. The locals laughed and joked that the bridge would surely never last the raging waters. A check the next morning saw the bridge standing true and proud and the locals shaking their heads.
As always, the troop responded to a variety of UXO (Un-Exploded Ordnance) calls. A number of BLU 97's were reported and destroyed by the troop. One BLU was located near a Beehive farm and required additional caution when destroyed. The section commander allowed just a little extra time prior to approaching the area after detonating the BLU 97 and no doubt, annoying the bees.
Two factors were predominant in the decision not to BIP. One was that the grenade was in very good condition with the pin in place. Second was the fact that it was a CS grenade. CS is a harassing agent used in crowd or riot control. It clings to any moist object such as eyes and nose membranes and gives the person a burning sensation wherever it touches. To have BIP'd it then, particularly with a curious crowd close by would not have been the best idea.
Saturday 11 March turned out to be the day of the week. Three sections were dispatched to assist police with murder investigations. Evidence was found in two of the cases and in the third, a search for bodies rumoured to be buried under cement proved to be false. The sappers were able o find evidence that the police dog missed, but the dog still got his "Attaboy's" from the troops.
The troop also continues to work on repairing a road that had been heavily bombed during the war and washed away again during the recent rainstorms. Lack of suitable construction material and equipment is making this project a difficult battle indeed.
The Radevo School toilet is finally in place after one of the most complex operations the Sqn has undertaken on this or any other tour. Trying to get the 700-Kg toilet in place without causing damage to the schoolyard proved impossible. The toilet however, proved to be a real hit amongst the children. The final touch-ups had not been completed when some young lad christened it.
My free time is spent exercising in the camp gym, eating the excellent and varied food and studying a second language. Sunday is my favorite day spent in the fellowship of other churchgoers or bringing donated supplies to a needy family. Both are interesting cultural experiences and have so far been the highlight of the tour.
My experiences here have made me appreciate Canada more and I wonít be so quick to complain about trivial things. I also feel that serving here has been a privilege and in someway I am not looking forward to going home. I hope this gives you some idea of our time here and thank you for visiting our web site.
EAGLE Route Landslip - As a result of both sides of the culvert being blocked by the mudslide, water has no way to escape from the East Side of Eagle Route. The water has risen to with 1 meter of the road surface and is still building. Any significant rain could cause the road to collapse at this site.
EAGLE Route Bypass - There has been extensive repairs conducted on the South end of this bypass. This bypass will become vital should the landslip on EAGLE route deteriorate, which is more likely than not. Suggestions have been made to the effect that this bypass should be widened to allow for two lanes of traffic. This may prove to be a monumental undertaking for the Squadron, not only in terms of manpower and equipment, but also in terms of land ownership. Along an extended portion of this bypass, there are farmer's fields that border the road. Some fields are within 1 foot of the ditch. There are stretches of road that have farmer's fields on both sides of the road. A plan is being considered that would improve the road to a wide one lane with passing depressions being placed strategically placed to allow for vehicles to pass each other. There are several spots where this is possible and should not require as much land ownership legalities. There is also a cemetery on the south side of the bypass that must be considered.
General Engineer Support - The Radevo School project has been completed. Windows are now in as are the doors hung. The Day-care in the town of Poklek now has a usable parking lot. Culverts have been placed along CLAYMORE Route in an effort to improve drainage. This task will come to an end on 4 April. A footbridge was constructed for a local community to replace a existing bridge that was made of tree branches. A culvert and causeway will be placed this week.
Training - Selected soldiers were trained on the use of the SRS-5 Mine Suit. The suit was also tried for use with the NYALA Mine Resistant Route Proving Vehicle. The trial revealed that the suit is not suitable for use with the NYALA, as the driver can not get into the driver's suit. This means that it would be even harder to get him out of the vehicle in the event of an accident.
Operations - The field troop responded to 16 UXO calls this week including one in the NORBAT AOR. They were conducting their ROTO and could not respond. A small number of the UXO calls were for suspected UXO's that turned out to be no threatening items, including cans of soup. A major problem has been noted as there was a serious shortage of amb's and Medic's. This must be looked at for all future operations and must be placed in the tour AAR. Amb shortage also resulted in the large UXO task at Mt Goles being cancelled. A field section conducted a house clearance.
We have been here for about 4 months now. The coldest part is behind us, and all of the people working in 1 Troop have started to slip into the maintenance mode now. The construction of the camp is completed and we are now anticipating the beginning of the tear down phase. The weather is starting to heat up as well. The last few days have been up in the 20C range. We also have a little longer in the evenings to sit outside to enjoy a coffee and relax. The R&Rís to Greece have started. We spend 3 full days in the town of Kavala. It is a very laid back peaceful area to spend some time in. The bus ride there and back leaves a bit to be desired though. It is usually hot and crowded in the bus, not to mention the slow down for customs procedures at the border. All in all itís not a bad trip though.
Things will be getting very hectic for us in the near future. The entire camp has to be torn down, along with the outlying camps. With that, all our vehicles, equipment and supplies must be inventoried, cleaned and then shipped out of the country. Then all arrangements to get ourselves back including administration, finances, claims and anything else has to be arranged for our return. It has been a pretty good tour to this point, and now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We will all be happy to return to our loved ones and hope that this country can return to some level of normalcy in the near future. Until next week, so long for now.
Another change came in the form of the Mini Flail. This remote controlled vehicle is used to check for mines along a given path. The operator will be able to remain far from the actual vehicle and remotely maneuver the flail to the location(s) required. The flail will be used in the upcoming days to clear a path of anti-personnel mines along an approach to four artillery pieces. The flail will pound the ground to the front using chains to hit any mines. I will include a picture of the flail in an operational tasking in our next article.
We are still working on the EAGLE Route bypass with some progress. We are now seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Several turnouts have been identified and initial work is being undertaken. On a lighter note, do you remember that footbridge that we reported on last week? Well we have an interesting story to let you in on. The bridge was built out of heavier wood than the design called for. It was secured to a crib that was filled with boulders to ensure even the heaviest rains could not wash it away. And it was built so that there was at least a foot of clearance between the water and the bottom of the bridge. All this effort was in vain as we found the bridge fifty meters down stream after a very heavy rainfall. Oh well, we will try again but there will be a better anchorage system.
This week we used the mini flail for the first time under operational conditions. The mini flail was used to clear a path to four separate artillery pieces. The flail pounded the ground in front of it and left a visible path that the Sappers could safely walk forward on, but still checking for tank mines. The four guns were then towed out of the field by the NYALA. The success of the mini flail was a welcome event, mainly because of the troubles we were having transporting it to and from sites. The weight of the mini flail and its trailer is over the limits allowed by the LSVW, which happens to be the only vehicle with a trailer hitch at the correct height. A message has been sent to NDHQ seeking permission to modify the towing hitch of the NALA to conduct trials.
Heavy Equipment section again spent most of the week working on the EAGLE Route bypass. Several turnouts were constructed to allow vehicles to pass one and other. On Wednesday, the section was about to place in a culvert when a farmer showed up and would not let them. It took the section two days to convince this man that the culvert was a good thing and it would benefit him. The section also worked on scraping other routes that had a large buildup of mud from the heavy traffic.
Join us again soon when we should just be starting the tear down of the camp in preparation to go home in June.
The actual teardown of this camp is a major undertaking. The camp was constructed over a one-year period and we are taking it down in just over six weeks. It seems that we now have more civilian workers on the camp than we do soldiers. Every day when you walk outside, you can see less and less tentage and more and more wood heading towards the scrap woodpile. The teardown of this camp and the entire out lying Canadian camps has provided the squadron with a major headache to say the least, but it has also provided for a multitude of leadership possibilities at the Spr/Cpl rank. Several Sappers have found themselves in charge of work parties of ten or more civilians that can not speak English. They have found themselves leading clean-up crews tearing down some of the redundant wiring around the camp and operating Skid-steers for the Weatherhaven contractors. They are supervising the cleaning of Geo Grid and Seacans that will head back to Canada or off to Bosnia. Spr Kravjar for example is gaining valuable supervisor skills as well as communications skills. His use of any radio was a point of hilarity at the beginning of this tour, but he has shown a great improvement over the last two weeks.
The camp is being taken down systematically from the outside inwards. Basically, we are imploding. We in 2 Tp, have all moved out of our Weatherhavens and are now living in what was C/S 0. I think the place was robbed before I got here though. I find it hard to believe that the CO of the Battle Group would have had a plastic chair at his desk. Our original CP has gone the way of last yearís PER format, as has our parking area. The gym is now gone as are all three messes. The kitshop will have a big sell off sale to clear out the remainder of its stock. We have been forced to revert to the use of the multi-colored rockets (Portable toilets). The pleasure of several showers and a seemingly endless supply of hot water has been replaced by two shower points, with a "First come first hot water" method of water rationing.
One major task that is being conducted on camp is the removal of electrical cabling that snakes throughout the camp. There are many kilometers of wire that must be recovered and cleaned prior to it returning to Canada. There are several civilians whose sole purpose is to dig up and clean this cable. Some people found themselves vacating their tentage early when it was discovered that the wire ran under their homes.
Great news has finally arrived for the troop. The camp will be taken over by another organization and they want a lot of the defensive positions that were produced to remain. This includes the berm and fencing that surroundís the camp. This will include the four OPís that are positioned around the camp. This is great news, as we would have had to commit considerable manpower and resources to the task.
Tasks out side the camp have dwindled as the Norwegians have now taken over most of the AOR. We have had very few UXO calls over the last few weeks but they are still trickling in. And we have finished one of our biggest projects of all. The WATER Route bypass is now a very effective route that the Norwegians could use in the event that the bottleneck on WATER Route (Formally EAGLE Route) should collapse. And one of the very last tasks we completed off camp was a two-day road repair that saw a village have a road fixed that has been washed out for several years. Now the children can walk safely to their school. We have only one outstanding task off of camp that we are still hoping to conduct should the supplies come in. We only require fifteen, 1.5-meter diameter culverts to show up for us to get place a culvert system in between two villages.
And much like the rest of the tour, there are things that happen that cause a lot of people to turn their heads and laugh. Like the recent accident/incident that involved the portable toilet cleaning truck. Letís just say that it took a lot of effort from Hy Eqpt sectionís AEV and Crane to keep this from becoming a stinky situation. And yes there were multiple wisecracks heard about this overturned container.
Well its time to get back to work and get this tour wrapped up. There are a lot of soldiers here that canít wait to get back to their husbands, wives and family. We will soon be heading to the port in Greece in preparation for our flight to Canada. We leave knowing that we have made a difference to many peoples lives, including ours.
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