Canadians have a long and honourable tradition of making and keeping peace; many have died for their efforts.
Never forget, Canadians have died in peacekeeping. Shortly after its arrival in Kosovo, our contingent of Canadian combat engineers serving with KFOR named their camp after one of their colleagues, Master Cpl. Mark "Izzy" Isfeld, who was killed by a landmine in Croatia in 1994. It was an appropriate and very Canadian choice.
Isfeld was one hell of a peacekeeper and ambassador for Canada before his untimely death. His priority in life was to interrupt the chronic suffering of the children he encountered in the trouble spots of the world by bringing a smile to their innocent faces.
He achieved his self-imposed role by personal contact and by handing out small, pliable dolls made by his mother, Carol, in Courtenay, B.C. They fitted into the pockets of his combat shirts, usually reserved for magazines of ammunition.
Izzy did not distinguish between ethnic groups and delivered his dolls to Serb, Muslim and Croat children depending on where his daily patrols took him.
His parents, Carol and Brian, are no shrinking violets. I got to know them shortly after their son's death.
Izzy was a prolific and talented letter writer and his dad, a retired member of the Canadian Armed Forces, thought it might be a good idea to publish a book containing poems by Izzy's grandfather during the Second World War and letters written by Izzy himself during his service on a number of overseas deployments including his last one with UNPROFOR in Croatia.
I agreed to write the foreword; however, no publisher was prepared to produce the book. I hope some publisher with vision will take on the project in the future.
Carol and Brian are active in the continuing campaign to ban the production and use of anti-personnel landmines. They were wisely included in the Ottawa conference that saw the ban formalized.
Carol continues to make the Izzy dolls to be handed out by our soldiers serving in Bosnia and Kosovo. As a result of the recent publicity surrounding the dolls, the demand has skyrocketed and people across the country are helping to produce similar dolls to be given away in Isfeld's name.
Carol Isfeld is adamant that that no one should make money from the dolls; insisting, understandably, that any and all profits go to the campaign to ban landmines. The doll pattern is on their website at: www.isfeldbc.com.
Meanwhile, Kosovo's traumatized children -- Albanian, Serbian and Greco -- need only pay for an "Izzy" doll with a smile.
While we rejoice in the legacy of this fine, young Canadian soldier, let us not forget that far too many Canadian citizens fail to realize that 15 more Canadian camps around the world could be named after our soldiers killed in the Balkans since we ventured into that region in 1992.
Certainly the vast number of Canadians I've spoken to have no idea that so many of our young men have died, not to mention the more than 100 soldiers who have been seriously injured during the same period. The following is an important part of the cost of our nation's contribution to peace and security in the Balkans.
I've listed those of our soldiers who have been murdered (intentionally targeted by the very people we went to help), killed in operations or accidents while serving in CER. Aug. 17, 1992.
Vancouver Province 23 June 1999
Pristina, Yugoslavia - Soothed by strains of James Taylor, three members of Edmonton's 1st Combat Engineers crawl methodically across the 100 metre field of knee-high grass, poking and prodding for land mines.
Protected only by flak jackets, the soldiers slowly work their way along, feeling the ground for any telltale inconsistencies before digging in with a bayonet every two centimetres.
At other times, in what almost appears to be a religious ritual, they lie prostrate and reach forward, sweeping with special feelers in search of trip wires. Every movement is an exercise in slow motion.
"Patience never killed anyone," their commander, Col. Mike Ward, said yesterday.
The Canadians were sweeping the field next to this former Serb Army barracks to ensure the safety of members of a British armoured brigade who will take up residence here.
Mine detectors weren't much use. Pieces of shrapnel and twisted metal were everywhere in fields next to demolished buildings.
The soldiers, called sappers, began by clearing three metre-wide alleys on their hands and knees, eyeing the ground and running their fingers across the earth side-to-side in a movement called "the Liberace."
Other engineers stood a silent vigil 30 metres behind the sappers.
And as the gentle, recorded music floated across the compound, medics quietly laid out stretchers and checked first-aid equipment. "You've got a friend..." Taylor's voice sings.
The soldiers wear no helmets. If one were to fall off, it could land on a mine.
There is a strong belief in instinct and intuition among the sappers. Each has the option to decide today is not his day, and walk away.
None did yesterday.
Covering about a metre every five minutes, they worked in intense, 20 minute shifts.
Sapper Wayne Downton of Toronto was soaked in sweat after his first 20 minutes.
"You've got to keep your eyes open, stay alert," said Downton, who calls it "more of a challenge" than other combat arms trades.
"You never know what you'll find," he says.
At the back of everyone's mind were two Gurkhas, Nepalese soldiers attached to the British Army, killed in an explosion Monday while clearing unexploded North Atlantic Treaty Organization cluster bombs from a deserted schoolhouse.
Since ethnic Albanians began returning last week, at least 32 people
have been injured by land mines, four of them fatally. -CP
Monday, June 21, 1999 - RICHARD DOOLEY The Halifax Daily News
Canadian troops headed to Kosovo are getting special training to prepare them for finding deadly reminders of the Balkan conflict: land mines and booby traps.
Army engineer Capt. Jean-Francois Legault said Canadian military planners believe war-torn Kosovo could be concealing huge numbers of deadly booby-traps left behind by Serbian forces and the Albanian Liberation Army.
He said Canadian troops in Kosovo have been trained to look for and avoid mines.
"We are showing them what people are likely to see when they get over there," said Legault. "Mine awareness is part of the deal to save lives."
But planners and engineers won't know for sure what the countryside is hiding until NATO forces gather information on the types of land mines found in Kosovo.
Legault works at the Department of National Defence headquarters in Ottawa, maintaining a computer data base of mines and booby traps found around the world. The database took six years to compile and is used to train personnel who go into mined areas.
It contains thousands of entries from more than 200 countries.
Unlike minefields laid out by professional armies as part of an obstacle plan or defensive position marked with warning signs, mines in Kosovo have been laid at random, with no accurate records or warnings.
"It creates a psychological burden," said Legault. "You have to be extra careful, especially in a situation like Kosovo."
With hundreds of types of mines, anti-personnel traps, and unexploded
bombs and ammunition littering the Yugoslav province, troops are trained
to look for tell-tale signs of
Numerous culvert mines, grenade booby traps, and improvised devices are being found in Kosovo.
"Our people are being told not to go into unknown areas if they want to come back in one piece," said Legault.
A contingent of airfield engineers dispatched to Kosovo from CFB Greenwood were warned about the dangers lurking in the country.
Master-Cpl. Paul Shebib said he and his fellow engineers won't be expected to handle or disarm mines. That's the job for experts, he said.
His training focuses on keeping out of harm's way.
"We've had numerous mine briefings before going," said Shebib. "It makes
you a little nervous about your day-to-day job if you don't know what's
Stumbled into minefields
The 13-year-army veteran said he's confident his training will keep him safe. "I'm just glad my job is not getting rid of the mines," he said.
Legault said recent events in Kosovo where returning refugees have stumbled into minefields, severely injuring and killing several people, emphasizes the need for caution.
"It's the sad reality," he said. "We don't ever fool around with mines."
Echo 2 Editors' Note - Within the Canadian Military
Engineers, there are several trades. One trade is Field Engineers, who
are responsible for (among other things) clearing mines and booby traps.
Other trades include carpenters, electricians and plumbers. This article
is about these latter trades, who are responsible for setting up accommodations for our troops.
Jun 21, 1999 Toronto Star
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (CP) - Canadian combat engineers dedicated their new home in the Balkans to one of their own who was killed in Croatia five years ago today.
Camp Isfeld was named for Master Corp. Mark (Izzy) Isfeld, a member of One Combat Engineer Regiment out of Edmonton.
``The fact that we are here today on a mission in the Balkans, it would seem appropriate that we dedicate our building to his memory,'' said Maj. Al Mulawyshyn.
``We do this in memory of Master Corp. Isfeld's professionalism, his sense of duty, his keen sense of humour, his wit and his caring attitude. He was an example we can all live by.''
One of the engineers played bagpipes at the ceremony, attended by about 100 troops.
The engineers are in the embattled Serbian province to clear land mines, construct new quarters for Canadian reconnaissance troops and help to restore infrastructure blasted by more than two months of war.
Isfeld, of Courtenay, B.C., was described as a humanitarian who saw things in the people of Bosnia and Croatia his fellow Canadians may have missed.
Isfeld had asked his mother to make hand knit dolls, which he gave to his fellow soldiers to hand out to children in the war-torn former Yugoslavia. The popular dolls eventually became known as ``Izzys.''
He was killed while disarming a land mine in Croatia on June 21, 1994.
Vancouver Province - 15 June 1999
Canadian troops are handing out special dolls to Kosovar children in tribute to a fallen comrade from B.C. as they roll across the war-torn Yugoslav province.
The 15th Engineer Squadron out of Edmonton is passing the dolls out to kids just as Master Corporal Mark (Izzy) Isfeld, of 1 Combat Engineer regiment, did before he was killed disarming a land mine in Croatia on June 21, 1994.
"It's keeping our son's memory alive," his mother, Carol Isfeld, said from the family home in Courtenay yesterday.
In the early ‘90s while on a peace-keeping mission in Croatia, the 31-year old from Courtenay asked his mother to knit the dolls. They were easy to carry because they were soft and pliable and could be stuffed almost anywhere.
"Since Mark was killed, his mother has been continuing to make them," said Mark's father, Brian.
"She's busy making some right now to send to Warrant Officer (Craig) Grant, who's over in Kosovo right now. I think it's super. It's good for the guys, good for Carol. It keeps the memory up."
Isfeld is also survived by his widow Kelly, an American who lives in Chilliwack and works in Sumas, Wash.
Grant from Calgary, described Isfeld as "one of our own", a humanitarian who saw things in the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia the other Canadians may have missed. "Mark used to collect little smiles like most guys collected souvenirs," said Grant.
Grant telephoned Isfeld's mother before leaving for Kosovo and asked her if the troops could distribute her handknit dolls in remembrance of her son.
Meanwhile, Grant's mother mobilized a senior citizen's home to make an emergency supply until Carol Isfeld can send along some of her own.
The 15th Engineer Squadron has stocked up on a supply of woollen "Izzy" dolls hand-knitted by three elderly women in Gibbons, Alta - Elsie Zelasek, Hilda Elzinga and Yvonne Pederson.
The Canadian troops have latched on to the idea - partly, they say, because the children remind them there is still innocence in a troubled land.
The Isfelds have a web page in memory of their son: <www.isfeldbc.com>
Captain Andrew Jayne
The annual Army Diving concentration, Exercise Roguish Buoy, was conducted February and March at Albert Head and Comox B.C. The aim was to refine the combat diving skill's of the divers across the Army who enjoyed the added bonus of interaction with foreign divers to exchange ideas, tactics, and general knowledge. A 10-man team from 1 Combat Engineer Regiment, joined by 2 German and 2 Argentine divers, participated in the exercise.
In addition to the 1 CER team, three other teams took part: 2 Combat Engineer Regiment, 4 Engineer Support Regiment and 5 Regiment Genie Combat. About 80 divers, including some from exercise headquarters, took the plunge.
1 CER team's first task was to conduct a reconnaissance (recce) of Whirl Bay to identify targets for demolitions training. The initial phase of training focused on general support diving tasks. The team got to business quickly with underwater construction tasks which ranged from assembling and dismantling a scaffold to wrestling with the "timber nightmare" (as other teams affectionately named it). The team also had the opportunity to test an excellent underwater cutting apparatus and new dry suites. Although these tasks were challenging and fun, the highlight may have been Warrant Officer Carsten Bartsch's demonstration of walking on water while wearing plodding boots and 15 kg of lead.
Following the general support phase, it was time to put on the face paint and go tactical. The exercise moved to Comox and took up residence on Goose Spit. The area offered excellent training locations and a real challenge to supervisors in terms of interpreting the tide tables. Three meters of water could quickly turn into 300m of mud.
The team practised insertion and extraction techniques as well as activities near and on shore. Team members conducted beach surveys, engineer recces and SABEXs while using old insertion techniques and testing some new ones. Helicopter insertion again proved to be the most enjoyable insertion method. Sea kayaks were found to be challenging yet extremely useful and versatile for divers.
Throughout the tactical phase, the team honed its skills for the final task. The mission was simple: insertion with kayaks by helicopter, two bridge recces and four landing site recces during a 17 km paddle, a 4-km foot patrol and extraction by helicopter. Unfortunately, 20 cm of snow and high winds grounded the helicopters and made the roads treacherous. The final push to defeat the enemy had to be cancelled due to safety concerns. Nonetheless, the preparation and battle procedure were valuable.
Overall, Exercise Rougish Buoy was a success. The team performed as a cohesive unit and accumulated a total of over 108 hours of bottom time, with two divers approaching 11 hours each. The experience and comradeship of the foreign divers was greatly appreciated.
1 CER divers are ready to take on any challenge thrown their way. Bubbles Up!
Captain Andrew Jayne is the Assistant Diving Officer with 1 CER and 2IC of 12 Field Squadron.
The Fredericton Daily Gleaner 12 May 99
In order to patrol the large Canadian sector, the Canadian Battle Group employs the soldiers of 42 Composite Engineer Squadron to ensure that all the roads are clear and safe to pass, both from mines and from a structural point of view.
The troops are probably the most busy with this task during the winter months, when more than eight feet of snow has dropped in a single day and snowdrifts makes roads completely impassable. But the roads are also closed as the result of other natural obstacles.
Recently, the engineers were hard at work opening a road that was closed by a landslide. Located near the border town of Licka Kaldrma, this part of the road has been closed for some months and it was necessary for Canadian patrols to pass through this area to exercise our freedom of movement.
It is important for the Canadian soldiers in the area to demonstrate that we cannot only clear these difficult roads, but also that we can patrol the sector when and how frequently the commanding officer deems necessary.
The side benefit of clearing this road is, of course, helping the local
community. In this remote part of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a mere 19 families
were directly impacted by the landslide on this road. Because there were
so few families, we took the opportunity to meet with all of them and let
them know what we were doing in the area. We did not want to alarm them
with the increase in military activity nearby.
Capt. Chafe introduced the couple to our civil-military liaison officers who have since put them into contact with international aid agencies like the Red Cross and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. These organizations will, at least, be able to provide the couple with the basics for life, like seeds and other farming essentials.
Without the engineer project in this part of the Canadian sector, it
is unlikely that this couple would have ever been identified. Helping families
like this has become typical of the activities that the soldiers conduct.
Despite cutbacks in other parts of the country, life at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown continues to move at an accelerated pace.
The proof: close to $100 million has been spent or will be spent on construction projects.
Over the last two years, construction on the base has taken place at a phenomenal level, said Col. Marc Lessard, Gagetown commander.
Leading the way is the now-completed Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering, which comes with a pricetag of $56.8 million.
This figure includes a training centre, a training area development, an austere village and a bridge and equipment maintenance facility.
The official opening of the Lt.-Col. Coulson Norman Mitchell Building, headquarters of the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering, took place in April 1998.
The school is meeting the needs
of both army and air force engineers, Lessard said.
"The reason being that the school of military engineers trains as many students as the other four schools all put together. We expect they will increase their number of students in the next year of two.''
Another major project on base was the $27.5 million spent on militia training facilities, including a technical support building, a barracks block, a vehicle wash bay and a storage area for ammunition.
That has translated into quantum improvement for those concerned, Lessard said.
The same can be said for those involved in the medical profession at Gagetown.
The completion in late 1997 of the $6.44 million Corporal Frederick Topham medical-dental facility has put the base on the leading edge when it comes to offering such service.
"It is not only a new building, it is a new quality of service,'' the commander said.
"The old barracks block that we had before was totally unacceptable.''
Also, the existing gym will be expanded in a $7.6 million project.
"That will be great,'' added Lessard. "Right now, we still have the same gym we had in 1950. The population has changed and we have a younger population who are a lot more business-oriented. We will have an inside track and we will increase the size of the swimming pool.''
It will also be made available to members of the recreation association.
"We have been part of this community for almost 41 years,'' Lessard said. "We have seen many changes and, although our numbers are smaller than the '60s, we stabilized and increased with the arrival of the Canada Forces School of Engineering.''
Another $1.57 million is being spent on an aircraft hangar for the 403 Helicopter Squadron.
On top of this, the base annually spends $36 million on training and another $20 million on salaries for civilian workers.
There are 3,600 military personnel
on base and 700 civilian workers.
"About 1,500 additional people will be coming on the base for two and a half months,'' said the colonel. "These people when they have some time off go out, whether it's in Oromocto, Fredericton or the greater Fredericton area.''
"I don't see really any major changes in the future. If anything, Gagetown is the centre point for army training.''
The base also recently sent approximately 800 troops from the 2RCR to the Balkans until August.
On the operational side of the equation, the base was undergoing an MEO or Most Efficient Organization exercise, but that has been suspended.
The Department of National Defence announced last year that it wants to reduce expenditures at Canadian military bases across the country by a total $200 million. The MEO was designed to find ways to make that happen.
While there is not a lot of meat left to pick off the bones, Lessard said he feels things can be done a bit more efficiently.
The Fredericton Daily Gleaner
25 March 1999
A TRANSCRIPTS - DOCUMENTATION
BUDD (CBC-R): The capture of American peacekeepers along the Kosovo border has raised concerns about the safety of NATO peacekeepers in neighbouring Bosnia. There are 11,000 NATO troops in the Bosnian stabilization force spread throughout the Serb, Muslim and Croat sectors of the country. Among them are more than 1,300 Canadians. Colonel Dick Isabelle is the contingent commander for the Canadian stabilization force in Bosnia. We reached him in Valika(?), Kladusha(?).
MARY LOU FINLAY (Reporter): Colonel Isabelle is the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia having any impact on your operations in Bosnia?
DICK ISABELLE (Colonel, Canadian Armed Forces): The NATO air campaigns are really having a small, small impact on us. We're geographically removed from the area of Kosovo, we're over 200 kilometres away from the Serbian border and probably 400 kilometres from the border of Kosovo, so the only impact on us are peripheral impacts because we too are NATO forces in this part of the world.
FINLAY: Everything's been so ethnically cleansed already in Bosnia that there is no Serbs left in your district at all?
ISABELLE: Well in the Canadian sector you're right. There are no large
numbers of Serbs. We're looking at primarily Muslim and Croat population
in our sector. The, we do have small parts of the Canadian sector though
which are part of the Republic of Serbs Scout which is the Serbian part
of Bosnia and the Serb population there are a bit higher.
ISABELLE: Ah Bangalooka is, that's correct, Bangalooka is one of the large Serbs Centres. That's where their government meets and they've just moved their military headquarters there as well.
FINLAY: Well what is the risk for them do you think?
ISABELLE: Well I think right now the only concerns that folks have regarding the Serbian population in Bosnia are, it's related more to demonstrations by civilians showing support for the Serbian concerns related to NATO but there's been very, very limited direct threats to the NATO troops in Bosnia. Normally what we're hearing about are sporadic and very isolated incidents of violence directed more at symbols of NATO and the international community as opposed to our people. We have not had any international community folks or S4 troops directly targeted at all.
FINLAY: Even though you're Canadians and Americans and part of NATO?
ISABELLE: That's exactly right. At this time, we don't feel a direct threat to our people. We've increased our security measures on the camps to a certain extent because I think that's just prudent given the fact that Serbia considers itself to be at war with NATO, I think any NATO facility, it's only prudent to increase the security measures somewhat and that's measures taken to counteract again the random acts of violence as opposed to certainly any sort of form attacks against the camps is not considered a threat. It's those random acts of violence of small numbers of people.
FINLAY: Are you concerned about abductions?
ISABELLE: Not, it wasn't something that, that we were thinking about seriously at all. I know that there were three U.S. soldiers that were abducted yesterday but bear in mind that those were within kilometres of the Kosovar border where ...
FINLAY: These are, yeah.
ISABELLE: ...as we are very far removed from that situation.
FINLAY: But those two Miggs that were shot down at the border, presumably they weren't just coming over to say hi? The Yugoslavian jets.
ISABELLE: That's right. The Migg 29 in fact, when the Miggs 29 were shot down, that had a very positive effect on the competence of the troops there in Bosnia because as you know, the Migg 29s never penetrated in more than five kilometres into Bosnia air space before they were shot down by the NATO combat air patrol that provides cover over Bosnia. So I think that's a clear indication of how much attention NATO is paying to the security of Bosnia and a very clear intent to keep the S4 operations in Bosnia totally separate from the NATO campaign against Serbia and in Kosovo.
FINLAY: What would it take, Colonel Isabelle, for the whole situation in Bosnia though to come unravelled?
ISABELLE: We don't consider that to be a very serious concern at this time. You have to bear in mind that since the Dayton Accord was signed in 1995, the S4 has managed to build a very good rapport with the three entity armed forces within Bosnia and has a fairly firm control over those entity armed forces, which are the military threat. So everything comes back again to general civil disorder and that type of issue and quite frankly the mood we see here in Bosnia is one more of people who are tired of war and conflict after three to four years of fighting. They are beginning to see the benefits of peace in their country and I think for the most part, the population across Bosnia, regardless of their ethnic background, is really one that would just as soon carry on with putting their own lives back together.
FINLAY: The Russians have been saying that the Dayton Accords are in jeopardy now. You think that that's not true then, you don't agree?
ISABELLE: Well certainly not the way we see it in the Canadian sector. We continue to make good progress on the Dayton Accords, the entities are continuing to allow the return of refugees and that includes Serb refugees returning to the Croat sector within our own Canadian area. So again the, our personal contact with the folks here leaves us to believe that Bosnia is still very much on the path of reconciliation and the discontent amongst the Serbs even within the Republic of Serbska is not universal, it's more the hard-liner Serbs who seem to be seizing the NATO air campaign in Serbia as just one more reason to try to gain support but it hasn't generated any sort of general following amongst the Bosnian Serbs at this point.
FINLAY: Your intelligence is that most of the Bosnian Serbs then don't want any part of any further fighting?
ISABELLE: Well certainly that's the indication, when there is calls for massive demonstration in cities like Bangalooka and when they have large populations and less than 2,000 people show up for a demonstration. I think that's a clear indication of the lack of interest and more instability in Bosnia at this point.
FINLAY: All right Colonel Isabelle, that's some good news. Thank you very much.
ISABELLE: All right Mary Lou, be good.
FINLAY: You take care, bye.
ISABELLE: Bye now.
BUDD: Colonel Dick Isabelle is the contingent commander for the Canadian
stabilization force in Bosnia. He spoke to us from Valika, Kladusha.
by Tina Crouse, reporter with the Oromocto Post-Gazette.
Engineers on course at CFB Gagetown last summer decided to learn while helping the local community at the same time. Their outstanding effort allowed the Oromocto section of the Trans-Canada Trail to open ahead of schedule.
Thirty soldiers from all over Canada worked on the trail for five days, installing gates, laying down crushed rock and cutting branches to widen the trail, said Sergeant Michel Rivard, course NCO for the technical qualification level three course at the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering (CFSME).
The soldiers' effort was recognized at the official opening of the four-kilometre-long Oromocto section of the trail in late October.
"Their contribution has made us quite proud," said David Peterson, president of the New Brunswick Trails Council, before passing on letters of thanks from the Trans-Canada Trails Foundation to the soldiers involved.
Faced with a week of down time while CFSME was on block leave, Rivard searched for a project to keep soldiers on the basic recruit course busy. Every engineer course builds a special project as part of their training, and Sgt Rivard wanted his soldiers to get involved to help the town.
He started asking around town to see what they could do and The New Brunswick Trails Council suggested the project.
"We were busy for a week," Sgt Rivard said, ‘and we did quite a lot of rewarding work."
There was a lot of planning, but it was not a complex project for engineers. Sgt Rivard said his students "really loved it, and I enjoyed it, too. If I come back here next summer, I'd do the same."
The soldiers are posted to units across Canada once they complete the course. Sgt Rivard will return to his unit at CFB Valcartier. "We wouldn't have gotten finished this year without them," said Leisure Services Director Jim Arbeau. The engineers expertise with construction and drainage was invaluable, and the project "fit in nicely with their course work."
"I can't say enough about the military members who have contributed to the trail," said Mayor Fay Tidd. "Without the engineers, we would have been years and years looking volunteers, and not all volunteers have the physical ability or aptitude to do it."
Tidd said the trail, which takes people through the woods and offers
a great view of the Oromocto River, provides a place to walk in the fresh
air away from vehicle emissions. "The air is so fresh and pleasant,
and people will get the exercise they really should have. Every member
of the family can use the trail, even those in wheelchairs. It has
untold benefits, plus I think it will bring a lot of people through our