DONJA KORETICA, Kosovo - For members of CCKFOR, the tour in Kosovo is almost over. Everyone looks forward to going home. Kosovo will become a memory, blended with other times spent away from one's family and friends. Unless that is, something horrible happens to make you remember a brief instant for the rest of your life-like stepping on an anti-personnel mine.
"Most accidents involving land mines happen in the last part of a tour," said Corporal Richard Landriault, a Combat Engineer from 2CER. Cpl Landriault is one of the dedicated instructors whose expertise is readily sought by all members of CCKFOR.
"The Canadian sector is the most heavily-mined area in all of Kosovo," said Corporal J.P. Hawker, another Combat Engineer from 2CER. "This is one of the main reasons we have done monthly mine awareness refresher training."
Cpl Landriault said instructors deliberately make extraction from a minefield the subject of the last mine awareness training session. "If you step on an anti-personnel mine…well, there's not much you can do then except wait for help to arrive," he said. "But it is the other soldiers who are with you that will know how to get themselves out of the minefield and if necessary, come and get you."
"Look, think, feel, prod and live-that is what we are teaching today," said Cpl Hawker.
"The great thing about mine awareness training," Cpl Landriault added
with a smile, "is that everybody pays attention."
|The PROM 1 anti-personnel mine. These are found across Kosovo, but are most common in the Canadian sector. Anti-personnel mines and Un-Exploded Ordnances (UXOs) comprise the biggest threat to Canadian troops in Kosovo.|
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The intent is to identify projects in advance, raise funds, recruit individuals who wish participate in these projects, and carry out the job. If planned properly in advance and dates assigned, people hopefully will be able to contribute 3,4 weeks or more of their time. It is attended to cover all costs for the individuals who participate, airfare, accommodation, meals, insurance, etc
At this time the Board of Directors, Keith Penny, Stanley Britton, Ken Mattes, Donald Conture, Pierrie Lapage, David Whinney and Phillip Nelson are in the preliminary stages of setting up the organization and developing an action plan . More will follow as plans are finalized.
Phillip Nelson CET / CSO - email@example.com
Part I - Introduction
CANTECH-Aide (Canadian Technical Aide) is a not-for-profit humanitarian organization incorporated under the Canada Corporations Act, Part II. Charitable status is pending. It is self-regulating and independent of other not-for-profit and for-profit organizations, and governments and agencies.
CANTECH-Aide is comprised of persons who are specialists in the design, construction and restoration, operations and maintenance, and life-cycle management of buildings, utility services, and works such as bridges and roads. Additional expertise includes life-safety and fire protection, geomatics and terrain analysis, and mine awareness. These persons, male and female, share roots firmly embedded in the military system for providing comprehensive professional and trades education and diverse employment. They are skilled technicians and capable trainers, broadly experienced in the rigours of leading and being mentors. Most remain active in related public and private sector careers. All retain the unique military capability - individually and as small teams - to quickly and effectively deploy for relatively short duration to distant locations where there exists a technical assistance and training need.
The ethos of voluntarism, knowledge sharing and skills transfer, and respect for cultural differences is enthusiastically embraced.
CANTECH-Aide aspires to be a pre-eminent provider of domestic and international technical assistance and training to communities-at-risk for want of safe and sustainable civil infrastructure.
To promote human security by building sustainable communities.
1. To promote human security by relieving poverty and supporting economic development by assisting communities-at-risk in he indigenous effort to build new, restore old, upgrade existing, and sustain civil infrastructure such as buildings, utility services, bridges and roads.
2. To safeguard the safety and health of residents of communities-at-risk by educating and training the providers of civil infrastructure on technical insights, best practises for sustainable operations and maintenance, and responsibilities of environmental stewardship.
3. To seek financial support as well as other types of support in Canada and abroad, to permit its members to fulfil their mission in parts of the world where they may be asked to assist/serve.
As an organisation of volunteers accountable to public funding agencies, CANTECH-Aide engages the highest standard of professional ethics in the conduct of business and its dealings with those it serves, its sponsors and partners, and its members.
The CANTECH-Aide logo is of sheltered helping hands servicing a power generating and water drawing windmill painted the colours found on most national flags.
Part II - Assessment of Need
It is the experience of founding directors who are engaged internationally and with Canadian First Nations that there exists a pressing need for the provision of low cost technical assistance and training to assist small communities-at-risk for want of safe and sustainable civil infrastructure. In many locations, capital acquisitions and start-up operator/maintainer training has been borne by governments, aide agencies, and/or the communities themselves. However, it is sometimes the case that follow-on life cycle funding has been constrained, personnel have changed, processes have been set aside, and continuous training has lapsed. Consequently, community health and safety is placed at risk. In other instances, civil infrastructure has been damaged by adverse circumstances of nature or as a consequence of societal strife. CANTECH-Aide has the capability and capacity to assist in stabilising and significantly improving situations and helping local providers ready their infrastructure for safe and sustained operations.
There is no evidence to suggest that the number of communities in Canada and internationally having need of civil infrastructure assistance will lessen. Indeed, it is probable that the need will increase as more under funded communities acquire civil infrastructure. Tomorrow, as today, the safety and health of some of these communities will fall into risk as follow-on resources fail to flow to maintenance and operator/maintainer training.
In Canada, as elsewhere, there is a trend to devolve humanitarian responsibilities away from the public to the so-called "third" non-governmental sector. Increasingly, dwindling funding often leads to the bypassing of for-profit service providers in the search for valued not-for-profits. Thus, not-for-profit organisations proliferate and the competition for work can be fierce. This is known to be especially so in the arena of high-profile crisis response (such as follows natural disasters). The middle ground is less competitive and under served. It is occupied by organisations such as Canadian Executive Service Organization and Housing Unlimited that focus on sustainable development. This is a place where the technical need is great and monies are scarce, but where there already exists a waiting core of locally available expertise. This is the technical assistance and training niche of CANTECH-Aide.
CANTECH-Aide is well placed to compete in the "third" sector because of its niche knowledge and members' experience. These people have the willingness to share their knowledge and transfer their skills. They are prepared to quickly respond to calls for assistance and to do so with modest compensation.
Part III - Capability
The CANTECH-Aide client base includes small local governments that are charged with the responsibility of providing safe and reliable civil infrastructure. Sometimes, the clients are co-operatives or private providers. Normally, because of the anticipated need for source funding, potential clients are identified through government and non-governmental referrals. A variety of contract arrangements are used, some of which involve third-party sponsors as well as community governments. As a minimum, clients are expected to provide board and room, and local transportation. In return, they expect to host technically and spiritually well prepared persons (even as it is recognised that particular tasks are not always well defined at the outset and local capabilities may be inadequate). Some clients expect to benefit from follow-up visits.
CANTECH-Aide is comprised of persons already experienced in working in small communities and with providers of civil infrastructure. For the most part they are, at this early stage in organisational growth, volunteers from the ranks of former Canadian Military Engineer trades, technologies, and professional disciplines. Because members are readily deployable and technically current, their training needs are primarily those of language skill, culture adaptation, and technical application. Members anticipate being required to actively research technical issues prior to deployment. The cost of visas, transportation, insurance, technical support, and other overheads are provided. The guiding principal is that volunteers will receive modest compensation.
CANTECH-Aide is not administratively top heavy. Initially, the work of client acquisition, recruiting, training, and administration is being be shared amongst a core group of members. First assignments include partnerships with more established NGO's, taking advantage of their in-place administrative and logistics processes. Arrangements such as these permit the organisation to learn through experience.
Part IV - Action Plan
The following actions are planned in Year-2000:
Populate the core organisation, and prepare business plans.
Develop processes to recruit, qualify, roster, train, task, and communicate with members.
Establish procedures to identify, fund, support and evaluate assignments.
Pursue one to three first assignments, in Canada and internationally, engaging "experience acquisition" partnerships.
Publicly communicate achievements.
Stanley C. Britton (Wakefield QC), Keith Penney (Orleans ON) – CEO,
Donald Couture (Rockland ON), Phillip Nelson (Dartmouth NS), Pierre Lepage
(Orleans ON), David L. Whinney (Stittsville ON),Ken Mattes (Winnipeg MB)
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Divers from around the world have been participating in an exercise to prepare them for both combat and civilian assistance situations.
Known as Roguish Buoy, the exercise has been taking place in Navy Bay, by Royal Military College, this past week.
"Land forces act over all kinds of geography, even in or near water," said Col. Kevin McLeod, commanding officer of the exercise.
"This can involve everything from mine disposal and watercraft repairs to aiding in [salvage of] the Swiss Air crash or the Winnipeg flood."
Roguish Buoy is an annual event for which, this year, more than 50 divers from the U.S., the Netherlands, Belgium, the U.K. and Argentina are in Kingston.
"We invite other countries so they can make use of our expertise and we can make use of theirs," McLeod said.
The military exercise incorporates many elements that reflect the increasing civilian roles of these dive teams.
RMC's environmental officer is using information gathered by the divers to add to an environmental evaluation of the bay. Assessments made by dive teams include inspections of bridge supports and pilings, water intakes, as well as the location of a mini-sub, built by the RMC engineering department, that sank in the bay during the 1950s.
Warrant Officer Robert Hamilton said divers inspected bridge footings under the Highway 401 crossing of the Cataraqui River. "They checked for damage, and measured dimensions," he said.
"Theoretically, if this had been war-time, they would have blown it up."
According to Hamilton, the most important part of the exercise is giving the teams real-time projects to complete.
Except for the U.S. divers, teams run the exercises in multi-national groups. This helps maintain the international flavour of operations in the field.
"This is a great way to share information and get divers comfortable in an international environment when you work in a bubble, you can only get so much information," Hamilton said.
Dive teams will leave today to CFB Petawawa, for the second phase of
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By DAVID REDWOOD -- The Daily News Sunday (Halifax), May 28, 2000
Fifty ambassadors are leaving Nova Scotia next week to sow friendship and peace in Kosovo.
But Charlotte Horne has to sew them together first.
The 63-year-old Shubenacadie woman is busy assembling Izzy dolls – wool figurines that Canadian UN soldiers give to curious children when the peacekeepers aren't defusing landmines.
"I spend every evening at it if I'm home. I don't mind a bit," said Horne.
Izzy dolls are named after Mark Isfeld, a military engineer killed on peacekeeping duty in Croatia in 1994.
Like many UN soldiers, he carried around candies to give to children. But Isfeld, who grew up in the Annapolis Valley, took that generosity a step further. After his first Croatian tour of duty, he told his mother of a disturbing experience seeing a child's doll abandoned in a destroyed house. His mother Carol started making the dolls at her home in B.C. and mailing them to Isfeld's unit. Isfeld would work with a pocket crammed with the toys, giving them as gifts to Croatian children. Other peacekeepers coined them Izzy dolls, after Isfeld's nickname.
Two weeks before the 31-year-old died, he told his mother at the end of a phone call: "These dolls are a hit, Mom, please keep making them."
Carol Isfeld never heard her son again.
On June 21, 1994 Isfeld's unit had cleared 910 metres of a 1,000-metre stretch of road. He died after an armoured personnel carrier nearby ran over a tripwire to an anti-personnel mine.
Since then, his mother has taken that phone call to heart and tries to make at least 31 dolls a year in her son's memory. "You can't have words like that ringing in your ears and not do something about them," she said yesterday.
"I found the dolls hard to make because after I would make a few I would realize what they are, and bawl for a couple of days," she said. She welcomes the help of family friends like Horne, and others - even total strangers.
A newspaper article in Alberta last year sparked a wave of volunteers from B.C. to Ontario to make Izzy dolls. Carol Isfeld simply asks that Izzy dolls be sent in Mark's memory and that no one make them for commercial gain.
UN peacekeepers in Kosovo give them out complete with a tag written in Albanian and English.
"Peace doesn't always happen with soldiers and guns; sometimes it happens with kids, dolls and grins," wrote one Canadian soldier whose unit has received 500 dolls.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Prime Minister Jean Chretien also received Izzy dolls last year at a conference devoted to banning landmines.
"The dolls are a phenomenon," said Carol's husband Brian.
Horne, whose children grew up with Mark Isfeld when both families were living in Greenwood, said she is motivated by her memory of the boy as a child.
"It's for somebody that I knew. It's to carry on for Mark." said Horne.
A sewing pattern and an address for military units who want Izzy dolls
is posted on a Web site the Isfelds have set up in their son's memory:
(see links page).
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Peacekeeping can be dangerous work, but Canadian Military Engineers at Defence Research Establishment Suffield near Medicine Hat, Alta., think their remote-controlled mine detector will make the job much safer. The department of national defence has commissioned construction of four of the detectors, each measuring about 12 m long, at a total cost of $26 million. Due to be delivered in August, 2001, the eight-wheeled devices will be used to open supply routes, clearing roads of anti-tank mines in war torn countries at the rate of up to three kilometres per hour, say John McFee, head of the army’s threat detection group. “If you don’t open the supply routes,” says McFee, “you have people starving.”
The detector’s front-end boom is equipped with three sensors: a metal detector, an infrared camera and ground-penetrating radar. Each sensor hunts for mines in its own fashion, and when it detects a suspicious object, the device’s software assesses the likelihood of the “hit” being a mine. A trailer pulled by the detector swings from side to side, and positions itself over the potential mine. On it is a black box containing a 100-microgram pellet of californium, a manmade radioactive element. A stream of neutrons generated the californium is pumped into the ground, in a process that detects the high concentrations of nitrogen found in explosives.
If the trailer confirms the presence of a mine, it discharges a fluorescent,
lime green blob to mark the spot. Although the detector and trailer weigh
3,600 kg, they do not set off mines because the weight is kept sufficiently
low. Two soldiers in an armoured personnel carrier trail the detector by
up to a kilometer, steering it and monitoring its systems via radio waves.
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Carrying on: Reaching Beyond 100 is an autobiography by Tom Spears with Monte Stewart. It is published by Falcon press of 12 Shawinigan Way, S.W. Calgary, AB, T2Y 2A1. Born in 1896, Spear was an ordinary soldier in WWI and a Royal Canadian Air Force officer from 1941-46. The book is about a man who went to work for the CPR at a small prairie station in 1913 and then retired from its headquarters in Montreal 50 years later. It is also about a man who decided early in life that he would take a positive approach to life and to whatever tribulations it held for him.
“World War I affected my whole life,” he writes. “It educated my body and soul – my being, my attitude, my outlook, my drive. You got use to practically everything in the army, and quickly forgot, but each experience lived with you forever.”
His story is a most optimistic hurrah for lengthy living; something one attains through a caring family, lots of friends, active citizenship and a challenging line of work.
Spear enlisted in 1916 and became a signaller and wireless operator. He got his fill of shellfire and excitement while with Canadian Expeditionary Force in France in the last five months of the war. Spear’s long experience in railway communications gave him a commission and eventual rank as a wing commander in WWII.
The autobiography is probably the cheeriest I’ve ever read, and the wisdom in it is probably too late for the future direction of veterans of WWII like myself. Nonetheless, it is spare, but clear run over a long, fruitful life with much in family, community and occupational history, and to this reader – who has moved beyond 80 – the book kept reminding me of just how vital the mundane has been to most of us.
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By PAUL COWAN, EDMONTON SUN
You can't fool your mom for long - and Fort Saskatchewan soldier Jeff Hendry didn't even try when he was sent to Bosnia earlier this year for the second time.
When Hendry, a master corporal with Edmonton's 1 Combat Engineer Regiment, was sent to Bosnia in 1997, he told his mom Regina that he would be helping rebuild schools, build bridges and work on highway improvements.
What he didn't tell her was that he was also spending time crawling around with a prodder looking for landmines.
"You can't lie to your mom for too long. She knows what engineers do, and I think she worked it out before I told her," said 28-year-old Hendry.
Hendry is working on minefield clearance again.
But this time he has 10 Bosnian soldiers working for him.
"This time I'm more of a supervisor," he said. "The Bosnians are very professional and very knowledgeable."
The Bosnians helped lay mines during the war.
Hendry said the passage of time had made mines more difficult to find.
"The natural vegetation dying means they sink deeper and trees and grass grow over them," he explained. "Sometimes the first we know of a minefield is when someone is killed."
Hendry said mines were still claiming an average of 10 victims a year in Bosnia - down from nearly 50 in 1996.
The sergeant with the Bosnian engineers speaks English but Hendry tries to learn a new Serbo-Croat word every day.
"One of the biggest differences between this tour and the last one is how much has been rebuilt," he said.
There are more than 1,650 Canadian peacekeepers in Bosnia at the moment.
Copyright (c) 2000, Canoe Limited Partnership. All rights reserved.
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National Post, Friday April 14, 2000 - Edward Keen
Brigadier-General Robert Jones, who has died aged 91, commanded the 4th Canadian Armoured Division of the Royal Canadian Engineers, building roads and bridges in England, France, Belgium, North Africa and Holland during the Second World War. After the war, he took on what he regarded as the greatest challenge of his career: managing the reconstruction of the Alaska Highway, built by the Americans as a supply route following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.
For his wartime exploits, he received 10 medals, including the Distinguished Service Order, and was named to the Order of the British Empire: he was mentioned twice in dispatches. The career soldier was modest about the honours, insisting that he was given them he “just happened to be there.”
But, on the battlefields, he proved both a pragmatic and visionary engineer, who could anticipate treacherous battle situations and who prepared for them with daring and innovations. He lived by the motto of military combat engineers: “First in, last out.”
John Robert Blakeley Jones or “JRB,” as he was known, was born in Edmonton in 1908, and showed an early interest in the military. As a youth, he joined the Cadet Officers Training Corps and the Edmonton Fusiliers, and attended Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. He graduated in mining engineering from the University of Alberta in 1939 and enlisted almost immediately in the Royal Canadian Engineers.
Soon afterward, he was put in charge of an engineering division and sent overseas. Later, he recounted the enormous task that faced him. “Fourth Canadian Armoured Division, with its five thousand, sometimes seven thousand tanks, armoured vehicles, guns and trucks, was a powerful striking force while it had its mobility. It was the task of the division engineers to see that this mobility was never lost because of physical obstacles.”
The book the Green Route Up details the Allied engineering divisions’ 600-mile path through Europe, clearing mines, building bridges and constructing supply routes and camps, almost always under enemy fire.
JRB made one of the key decisions of his career early in his service when he promoted the use of the mobile Bailey bridge for river crossings. At the time, other types of mobile bridges were under consideration, and there was controversy over whether the Bailey bridge was better suited for military advancement through Europe. Lieutenant-Colonel Jones put an end to the argument in dramatic fashion.
In the demonstration for General Dwight Eisenhower, he outlined the advantages of the Bailey bridge. He and his men then set about erecting a 40-foot Bailey bridge, complete with 10-foot ramps, endposts painted white and approach-tapes pegged out. The entire edifice was constructed in an astounding 14 and a half minutes. One of the men called it “a display of bridge-building prowess that has never before or since been equalled.”
But JRB wasn’t finished. Next he had his men duplicate the feat – in the dark. Field Marshal Montgomery concurred with JRB’s assessment in a written dispatch: “Bailey bridging made an immense contribution toward final victory in WWII as far as my own operations … in Northwest Europe. I could never have maintained the speed and tempo of forward movement without the large supplies of Bailey bridging.” The development of the bridge by Sir Donald Coleman Bailey was considered to be as important to the war effort as the development of radar and the heavy bomber.
JRB was also instrumental in shooting down an invention called the CDL, which was being promoted by British scientists.
The device involved the use of synchronized flickering lights that would “blind the enemy, light up our positions and lower their morale.” It would also provide “a triangle of darkness” through which Allied infantry could advance. When JRB inspected the CDL, he told his superiors that the device would be effective only on its first use; afterward the enemy could counter the effect with smoked glass. The project was scrapped.
In 1943, JRB was sent to Algeria where he grew concerned that the retreating German forces were proving far more adept than his troops at laying mines and booby-trapping structures. In a directive to his men, he wrote: “Troops should be able to lay [mine] fields at a rate of 600 mines per hour at night. We must learn to be better than the German sappers … mapping and anti-lifting techniques must be thoroughly thrashed out and drills laid on before we engage in operations.”
JRB wrote poignant letters home from the front, telling of the bouts of boredom and times of extreme danger. To his wife, Muriel, he wrote in June, 1943: “We sailed Xmas night and arrived at Algiers a few days after New Year’s. as I was the only officer experienced in road construction I was put in charge of that while things were not very active. We got machine-gunned a few times on the road. At night, I went out with mine-laying parties in front of our forward positions on no man’s land. We had to duck the odd shell, but managed to keep out of trouble. Our sappers put in roads through the hills working at night to allow our infantry to attack the Germans on Mansou and El Allings. Had a front-seat view of both attacks. Am very glad I didn’t stay in the infantry.”
On that operation, the Germans launched a counterattack. Two groups from General Rommel’s divisions broke through American positions, which would have cut off road and railway supply lines to Allied troops. “We managed to stop the Germans there and laid lots of mines and I had a few jobs that gave us a good initiation to enemy fire. It’s not very pleasant but you get used to anything. We were dive-bombed a few times. I hate digging so I never had a slit trench and I’m making a portable one that can be produced when badly needed.”
After nearly five years in combat, JRB thought life was about to get easier when, at war’s end, he returned to Calgary as district engineer. He was promised a three-year posting and even bought a house, with the idea of settling down. A month later, he was asked to take over supervision of the Alaska Highway.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Americans had realized their Pacific coastline was vulnerable to attack, and military engineers had built a highway stretching from Dawson Creek, B.C. to Fairbanks, a distance of 1,400 miles. After the war, the highway was turned over to Canada. JRB’s job was to manage and rebuild it.
Calling it a “highway’ was a misnomer. On inspection, it was little more than a bulldozed trail through wilderness, muskeg and mountains, with flimsy bridges constructed with local forest products. Thirteen camps dotted the roadway as well as numerous small airfields, all of which had to be supplied and maintained.
JRB made his first inspection of the highway with a young American officer who had never seen snow before and who liked to drive fast; he had the curves banked with snow “so he could stay on the road.”
JRB and his young American driver descended “a long, slippery hill near the trading post of Burwash Landing,” where “we could see a dozen pack horses trapped on the road in a snowbank. There was no way we could stop so I put up my arms across my eyes, we hit something solid and came to a stop. All I could see was a large horse’s bum on the hood.”
The monumental task of rebuilding the highway struck him on that trip. “I found that we were to take over a road that twisted and wandered through mountains and muskeg down to the farmlands of the Peace River area. There were an additional 200 miles of access roads to airfields and several emergency landing strips. There were a hundred temporary bridges in need of replacement and hundreds of culverts made of native timber. Most of the road was poorly drained and many miles of dangerous curves would have to be rebuilt in order to make it safe for civilian travel.”
The winter of 1946-47, when Bob Jones took over the project, was extreme. He recalled working in sustained temperatures of –70F, with dips to –83, when even gasoline turned to slush.
After three years as senior engineer of the North West Highway System, Bob Jones became director of works at National Defence Headquarters. After that, he served as chief engineer of the Canadian Army.
He retired from the military in 1963 and went to work for a large construction
company in Alberta. For 10 years, he was director of campus development
at the University of Alberta, Calgary, and then with the Alberta Universities
He remained vigorous until the last year of his life.
He was predeceased by his wife, Muriel, and by a son, Bobby. His is
survived by his daughter, Peggy Watson, and by his son, Peter.
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Negotiating in Bosnia can be a headache for Edmonton soldiers helping to rebuild the former war zone - whether it's with local contractors or the treacherous roads.
About 20 members of the 11 Field Squadron of 1 Combat Engineer Regiment are involved in expanding and improving a NATO base at Tomislavgrad, recently taken over by Canadian troops.
"One of the biggest problems is the roads," said Lieut. Barbara Honig, commander of the squadron's heavy equipment and support troop.
"The roads are very narrow and winding with steep drops, no shoulders like we have in Alberta, and there's always the danger of a traffic accident.
"Drivers here are more aggressive when it comes to passing and our vehicles are on the big side for the roads because they're built to North American specifications."
Honig said it took four hours to make a 200-km journey.
There is also a big difference in pace when it comes to dealing with local contractors.
"They are very helpful but they tend to want to socialize and drink coffee," she said.
"A meeting that would take 20 minutes in Canada can go on for an hour and a half here."
And persuading the contractors that once they sign a deal they must stick to it was a problem.
"We had a contract for snow clearing which specified it must begin within two hours of us calling," said Honig.
That was taken as a suggestion, apparently.
"We cancelled that contract and since then people have realized that we expect them to honour their contracts," she said.
Honig and her crew is involved in building new accommodations at Tomislavgrad for an extra 145 members of the Shilo, Man.-based 1 Royal Canadian Horse Artillery who are being sent to reinforce the Canadian contingent.
The gunners will be joining the 1st Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Battlegroup from Edmonton.
The troop is also building a new heliport, expanding the kitchens and putting in a gym at the camp.
New communications links are also being installed to allow the peacekeepers
to stay in touch with their families
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Outside the market building in Zumalia, East Timor more than 70 faces stared at Sgt Patrick Noury. He shifted his weight, returned the stare, and raised his hand. "Sunday," he said. "Soon-dai," repeated the class.
Smiles broke out, and Sgt Noury, 37, a combat engineer with 5ième Régiment genie de combat based in Valcartier, Quebec, proceeded to lead his Timorese students through the remaining days of the week. This was his second day of teaching English to the locals. His class was being closely followed by a group of older women, who guarded infants and their small piles of beans, bananas, beetle nuts, and cigarettes spread out on burlap sacks for sale at the back of the large hut. Roosters crowed loudly nearby, mangy dogs sniffed around the square and an enormous gray water buffalo, tethered by the nose to a palm tree, lowed plaintively. A typical wet afternoon.
Formerly an instructor for six years at the old School of Military Engineering at CFB Chilliwack, Sgt Noury's enthusiasm for teaching made him the natural choice to become the language tutor for the population of Zumalai.
"I volunteered," he responded to the question of how he got into the position. "At first I didn't really think it was going to take off because of the heavy rains and the number of places we had to go and fix up. But because it can take a long time for building materials to get here, we had a bit more time, so we went ahead and started the classes. About 24 hours in advance we had notice. On Sunday the mayor came up with a list of 70 students, and said, 'These people will be here tomorrow morning. As well we're going to do it again on Wednesday, how's that?'"
So, after one day of preparation, Sgt Noury began the first class. With the aid of Indonesian and Tetum dictionaries and the camp's interpreter Vito Bernardino, Sgt Noury now teaches three times a week for about an hour. "This is a nice change of pace. Getting in close with the population. It's nice to see their smiling faces and getting satisfaction out of their learning," he explained. "At an hour and a half a day, they're picking up the language quite quickly. Some of the students are already using the basic phrases I've taught them."
Sgt Noury and his troop of combat engineers are the Close Support Troop of the Company Group from the Third Battalion, Royal 22ième Régiment, deployed here for six months as part of the recently ended Australian-led International Force in East Timor (INTERFET). INTERFET has since turned over its security responsibilities to the new United Nations peacekeeping force. In the secure environment created by INTERFET, and maintained by the UN, the Canadians have begun work on a large variety of humanitarian aid projects, including Sgt Noury's language classes.
Around the corner from the town square and Sgt Noury's class is a grassy field bordered by a plain, tin-clad church and a destroyed school. The simple, four-room school building, with a narrow porch running the length of its front, was burned out in the troubles. Nothing remained of it but charred gray walls covered with graffiti, applied with the charcoal of the school's former roof. A trimming of broken glass was quickly being overgrown by fireweed and wild flowers in the wet season.
For about two weeks recently, a section of engineers spent their time clambering about the roof of the school. They constructed trusses and rafters out of heavy lengths of dense mahogany, to which they screwed shining sheets of corrugated steel. A gaggle of young boys, squatting on their haunches, stared at every move the soldiers made, scampered away in mock fright at the ignition of a circular saw, and played marbles on the dirty floor of the school's porch. The sappers worked carefully around them. When the new roof was finished, the walls were whitewashed, the floors swept clean, and the school re-opened. The children no longer needed to take their lessons in the dirt under the broad canopy of a nearby shade tree.
But re-building the school was not enough to get classes going. So the Canadians in Zumalai also built 40 desk and bench sets out of materials provided by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The requirement was to accommodate 80 schoolchildren; so simple two-person desks and benches were made out of plywood and two-by-fours in a makeshift workshop in a sea container at Camp Maple Leaf.
"The locals are going to remember this and they're going to be using
their English after we've left," said Sgt Noury. "It's like the satisfaction
of fixing a bridge. Nice new wood, the locals get to use it, and it's something
that you leave behind."
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BRISBANE, Australia (CP) - Canada's military contingent in East Timor closed its Dili headquarters Monday for transfer to Darwin, Australia, an event that coincided with the changeover of other international peacekeeping duties.
While a United Nations flag was raised in Dili to mark the handing over of control to the UN from the Australian-led INTERFET force, Canadian staff closed down the satellite ground terminal that helped maintain communications with Ottawa.
"Today is the last day we'll be running our reports from Dili," Lt.-Cmdr. Chris Henderson of the Canadian forces contingent said in a telephone interview from Dili.
"We're moving over in groups to Darwin, and our people should all be operating from there by later this week."
At the same time, outgoing Australian troops handed over control of the central sector of East Timor to Brazilian, Portuguese and Kenyan contingents who will be in charge of security for the towns of Dili, Ainaro, Same and Aileu.
The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) military commander, Filipino Lt.-Gen. Del Los Santos, thanked the Australians for leaving the central sector with a stable security environment.
With the departure of the HMCS Protecteur supply ship on Feb. 3 for its home base of Esquimalt, B.C. the Canadian contingent in East Timor and Darwin sits at 291, said Henderson.
INTERFET troops have been in East Timor since Sept. 20, sent there to restore security after a campaign of violence by pro-Indonesian militia when the territory voted overwhelmingly for independence from Jakarta. There were about 650 Canadians sent to East Timor in the peacekeeping mission.
Now, other than the 32 personnel from Dili soon to be operating out of Darwin, there are 216 in the town of Zumalai, most of them members of the Royal 22nd regiment, the Van Doos, based in Valcartier, Que., and 12 more in nearby Suai. As well there are 31 still working out of a support and logistics warehouse in Darwin, said Henderson.
Canadian forces in Zumalai and Suai will not relinquish security duties until March 12, three weeks after the region's official Feb. 23 changeover. Most of the Canadian contingent will return to Canada at the end of March, he said.
Henderson said troops in Zumalai and Suai have been concentrating on humanitarian work lately.
"Security is quiet, which is a good thing," said Henderson. "So they've been tracking down what kind of aid work they can do."
He said Sgt. Patrick Noury of the Valcartier-based 5 Combat Engineer Regiment has been teaching English classes three times a week to a group of about 70 men, women and children in the town market area of Zumalai.
"They've also re-roofed the small four-room school in Zumalai and they're now doing the same at the hospital," said Henderson. "They've also built a children's playground in the small town of Heameno." "Until that point, it was a shell of a building," Henderson said of the newly-repaired school. "It had puddles of water, and the kids had nowhere to go to school."
Canadians have been recycling their plastic drink containers to give to the local residents, as well as giving them clothing and school supplies. Henderson said troops are helping out wherever possible.
"A local farmer had a tractor that needed fixing, so we went out and towed it back to our mechanics who repaired it so the man could start farming again," said Henderson.
"We've got the skills, extra time and energy, so we help out where we can."
© The Canadian Press, 2000
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GLOGOVAC, Kosovo -- The taxi driver couldn't believe it. About 30 cm of snow had just fallen and here we were storming down a perfectly plowed back road at about 80 km/h in a battered, third-hand Mercedes-Benz.
"It never used to be like this after a blizzard in Kosovo. The roads often wouldn't get plowed at all. If they didn't, we'd have to wait until the snow melted before we could travel to a lot of places," the driver said.
"We have to thank the Canadian soldiers. They sure have made a big difference."
Performing such civic duties as clearing snow, building roads, helping to put roofs on houses and teaching land mine awareness to children was the responsibility of units from Alberta after NATO arrived in Kosovo last June. Since December, the work has been done by soldiers from Camp Petawawa on the upper Ottawa River.
But the Canadians in Kosovo have three primary responsibilities. Troopers from the Royal Canadian Dragoons provide intelligence for the British brigade the Canadians are attached to. Infantrymen from the Royal Canadian Regiment try to maintain the peace to the west of Kosovo's capital, Pristina. Sappers with the 23rd Field Squadron of the 2nd Combat Engineers Regiment are destroying Serbian land mines and unexploded cluster bombs dropped by NATO warplanes and proving that roads are mine- and bomb-free.
To the north of the Canadians are French troops. To the east and southeast are Brits, Swedes and Norwegians. To the south and west are Italians. To the northwest is a Russian motorized rifle company.
"It's interesting dealing with the Russians and I'll leave it at that," a Canadian officer with Duke's Company of the Royal Canadian Regiment, which is responsible for the Glogovac area, said, rolling his eyes. Canadian soldiers speak of occasional confrontations with the Russian peacekeepers, who often seem keen to celebrate the fact they are not posted to Chechnya by getting drunk.
Duke's Company, the oldest infantry outfit in the Canadian army, sends out about four or five foot patrols a day from its base in Glogovac's municipal building and visits each of the surrounding villages at least twice a week in armoured personnel carriers. The town of 10,000 is unique in all of Kosovo in that it is entirely Albanian, the few Serbs having fled soon after Belgrade capitulated eight months ago.
Even with the Serbs all gone there were still plenty of guns around. The Canadians got to hear them every time there was a wedding or KLA funeral.
As Glogovac was predominantly Albanian during last year's one-sided civil war it received lots of attention from Serbian soldiers, policemen and paramilitaries. As only Albanians live here now Glogovac is usually quiet. Nonetheless, there have been three murders recently.
Duke's Canadians keep a particularly close watch on five known Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) hangouts in town. These pizzerias and discos each attract a different crowd of regulars until the early hours every morning. That violence might yet erupt here is a given. Tellingly, not one person in the area took up a recent amnesty the Canadians offered to those turning in weapons.
"A lot of Albanians died here during the war and a lot of them hid out in the mountains," said Sgt. Robert Carriere of Sudbury, as he took me on a foot patrol with four other RCR soldiers.
Stopping in front of the local hospital, where a truck was stuck in deep snow and other vehicles had given up trying to get through, Carriere requested by radio that Canadian engineers come to clear a path to the hospital door. Entering the building, the sergeant confirmed it was still without heat, had little electricity and few drugs. Even the maternity ward was closed. Women were sent home immediately after giving birth.
Receiving word that another Canadian snowplow was on its way, Carriere
and his patrol walked back out into the snow and ice.
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The picture of a grubby little boy wandering alone in Iraq is what motivates the anti-landmine work of Nobel Peace Prize co-laureate Rae McGrath.
He told his audience at Queen's University this week that the boy's mother was out cutting firewood with the boy on her back when his brother ran off to play in the woods.
He was blown up by a landmine.
The mother put down her other son and went to find his brother. She was also killed.
That left the little boy walking all by himself.
McGrath shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, given to Jody Williams and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.
His talk was one in a series of weekly lectures at Queen's sponsored by Studies in National and International Development, said the host, Prof. David McDonald of the department of geography.
McGrath spent 18 years with the British Army's electrical and mechanical engineers. He said he'd initially been an instructor in the clearance of landmines and booby traps.
But he left the service in the early 1980s and began working on food and logistics with non-governmental organizations in Sudan during a famine there.
He later drifted into dealing with landmines and unexploded ordnance left over from wars. He trained people how to clear their lands.
By the late 1980s, McGrath's work took him to Afghanistan where, with a mixed team of British and Afghans they began rebuilding communities, but landmines kept stalling their success.
In 1990, he founded the Mines Advisory Group and started looking at the landmine problem in Cambodia, North Iraq/Kurdistan, Laos, Mozambique, Angola and Somalia.
By 1992, he had joined some others to establish the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. This led eventually to the Ottawa Treaty against landmines in 1997 and in the same year the Nobel prize. He also did a lot of work with Princess Diana, he said.
He wrote a book, coming out in April, Landmines and Unexploded Ordnance: A Resource Book.
McGrath said he's seen too many child victims of landmines in poor countries having their limbs amputated with only aspirin for anesthetic. He first gave his audience a detailed slide presentation and lecture on the horrors of different anti-tank and anti-personnel landmines.
McGrath then photographically "walked" his audience through various
minefields in schoolroom floors, fields, houses, gardens and lovely valleys.
The work of removing mines is made more difficult by the fact that people
make risk-assessments of their own, like trying to farm or get water in
an area sewn with mines.
McGrath showed a minefield in Cambodia where the rain had exposed dozens of mine detonators to the naked eye, and said a farmer had made his assessment and gone into the field to try feeding his family.
"He lost the risk-assessment and he lost a limb," McGrath added.
Another slide showed a northern Iraqi boy who had been tending his sheep when he was badly injured by a landmine.
"You can only be thankful he died," McGrath said.
And he talked about how difficult it is to have children told not to
turn left outside the front of their hut because of mines which are marked
but can't yet be removed. "Often it's too late," he said, "because you
can realize how difficult it is to teach kids not to run about and play."
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The Great Blue Heron is that much closer to having it’s very own conservation area, today.
Of course the birds probably won’t notice much of a difference from when the army lived with them, but the difference it will make to the people of Chilliwack will be significant.
The Chilliwack Rotary Club turned the first bit of earth to start construction on a nature interpretive centre Monday 24 January 2000. The centre will be the focal point of the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve, the club’s millennium project.
The reserve will be built in a lagoon at the end of Sumas Prairie Road.
The plan is to build a permanent centre on the site with information and nature displays.
The building will also have an area to view the lagoon and the heron rookery, which is the third largest in B.C.
There will be several trails heading off from the main Rotary trail, and there are plans for an amphitheater and a parking and picnic area.
The centre itself will be 2,500 square feet, separated into three sections, with two viewing areas, said project coordinator Bob Moore.
“The idea is to make it warm and inviting, with the coffee always on,” he said.
“That way people will go there often, not just once to say they’ve been.”
They are estimating the cost at $280,000, and Moore said they have 64 per cent of that already.
Since they haven’t started their fund raising drive yet, Moore is confident
they will be able to raise the necessary money to complete the project.
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Captain Lee Goodman is a military engineer currently on a six-month peacekeeping tour of duty as part of the NATO-led international Stabilization Force (SFOR) in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Since last May, she has been working with the Canadian Works and Design Company at Camp Butmir, in Sarajevo. As an engineer, she is responsible for assessing damage to bridges throughout Bosnia to maintain freedom of movement for military and civilian traffic.
The Works and Design Company provides specialist engineer support to the NATO/SFOR peace mission in Bosnia. In fact, Canada is the only country capable of providing such specialized engineer support to deployed mission, including survey and drafting.
SFOR comprises approximately 29,000 troops from 38 countries, including 1,360 Canadian soldiers, with a mandate to deter the assumption of hostilities and stabilize the peace in Bosnia-Herzegovian. The Canadian Forces contribution is known as Operation Palladium.
Capt. Goodman is based in Edmonton, Alberta with Land Forces Western
Area Headquarters. She is scheduled to return home this month (Dec). She
extends special greetings to her parents Jack and Eloise Caverson who live
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Petawawa Post 24 November 1999
Pte (R) A. S. Zourdoumis, Field Engineer Crse QL3 9902
I’ve written two other articles about our progress on this course in order to try and give you an indication of what it’s like to actually be living it. I’ve tried, to the best of my abilities, to convey the wide range and depth of emotions we’ve all had during the past five months, and to help you to understand what a monumental task it was to complete it. I asked my coursemates for help in this regard, and no one seemed to be able to pin it down with any amount of accuracy. After careful consideration I came to this one conclusion.
You will NEVER understand what it means unless you live it.
For six months we’re lived in each other’s pockets, worn each other’s pockets, worn each other’s clothes, developed each other’s strengths and crushed each other’s weakness. We’ve learned how to anticipate each other’s next move and how to react accordingly. We’ve learned which of us can lead with only the tiniest bit of guidance, and we’ve learned which of us needs no guidance at all. We’ve learned how difficult it is for those who know to teach those that don’t, and we’ve discovered that those who teach are dedicated to their task even if it means great personal sacrifice. We’ve learned about each other, we’ve learned about ourselves, and we’ve learned what we are capable of both alone and together. We’ve learned respect, and we’ve learned confidence, and we’ve learned strength. We’ve learned to come together not simply as a course or a team, not even as a family, but as one organism with many limbs, and we have learned that no matter what units we are posted to, no matter how far away we are we will always be together.
We have learned to live, move, and fight as combat engineers.
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When a Chilliwack man with a penchant for military history heard about a book he was interested in, he just had to have it.
But because Donald Shaw has been blind since 1981, it wasn’t simply a matter of buying the book to brush up on a little bridge-building history.
Thanks to a joint venture by Fraser Valley Regional Library and the Library Services Branch of the provincial government last summer, the book, The History of the Canadian Military Engineers was recorded on cassettes and is now available to audio book users across the province.
“I can hardly wait to start listening to it,” said an obviously delighted Mr. Shaw, as he picked up more than a dozen 90-minute audio book cassettes this week from the Chilliwack Library.
“I’m looking forward to experiencing and reliving some of my own history with the engineers. I want to thank everyone involved for the effort.”
The 68-year-old Mr Shaw was a sapper (like a private) in the Royal Canadian Engineers in Chilliwack from 1949 to 1952. He then joined the militia and served until 1962. He also co-owned Chilliwack Delivery and was a prison guard for 32 years.
“I originally became a sapper because I was that kind of person, interested
in machinery and equipment,” he says.
|“I fit right in with the training, things like roads and airfield construction and bridge-building. It was a matter of seeing a situation and being able to deal with it.”|
Vickie Klemetson, outreach supervisor with FVRL, said his request last spring to have the technical book recorded was a little unusual because most requests were for works of fiction.
“We started looking around to see how we could fund the recording,” she explains. “In the end, the library decided to pay for it.”
The project price tag was about $850 for the production and narrator costs.
“We went ahead because we realized that if we didn’t, Mr. Shaw would have no access to this book. How else would he get it on tape?” Ms. Klemetson asked rhetorically this week. “We’re very happy today to be able to lend him the book, in the form of 14 cassette tapes.”
Kathleen Shaw, Donald’s wife, says she initially took one look at the
size of the 500-Page book and said “no way” was she going to record it.
Over the years she has recorded dozens of shorter computer and electronic
materials for her husband.
“I was happy to record other books, but this one was really a little too much,” she says.
The fact that the book touches on some of the engineer’s history, made it even more unique and relevant to the community, since there are about 200 retired military engineers in the area.
Mr. Shaw says he keeps in touch by belonging to an association of retired military engineers who meet once a year as well as an informal group which meets monthly.
“We get together and there’s lots of shared war stories,” he says chortling.
Audio books, which are unabridged books recorded on cassettes by professional actors and readers, are enjoyed by 578 registered audio book patrons. To be eligible, an individual must have a physical reason for not being able to read. Then they can pick them up at the library or have them mailed to their homes.
In 1998, FVRL audio book users borrowed over 56,000 audio books, choosing from over 10,000 titles.
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At the training centre of the Cambodian Mines Action Centre, the first order of business is a demonstration of mines and UXOs. This consists of laying them out on a table.
The UXOs (unexploded ordnance in the acronym-speak that everyone in international worthy causes uses) are at the left side on the long table, which is covered by a blue tablecloth. They are big things that look like bombs and are.
The report of a 1998 conference on demining and victim assistance says that Cambodia had 539,000 tons of bombs dropped on it between 1969 and 1975, three times what was dropped on Japan during the Second World War.
Not all of it went off.
The mines on the table are smaller and when you read the little labels on them you can see how many different countries we have to thank for the millions of landmines that are still in Cambodia.
There are 30 kinds on the table. This one here, described as a ``fuse type, tripwire electric, Model 123,’’ was made in Thailand. It is small enough to hold in your hand and it features directional fragmentation. ``Minimum weight: Not known,’’ it says, the minimum weight in question meaning the minimum weight needed to set it off.
Other mines on the table come from Czechoslovakia, the United States, China, Russian and Vietnam.
The demining demonstration takes place outside. The training centre has the look of a Canadian military base – immaculate white buildings, well-groomed grounds surrounded by barbed wire, the only difference being that the roofs of the buildings have a little dragon-boat tip at both ends.
Several men are involved in the demining operation, most prominently the detection man and the prod man.
Their tools are common enough: large and small garden clippers, a small axe, a trowel, a paint brush and a short, slender rod.
The five stages of the process are well-defined: tripwire feeler drill; vegetation cutting; mine detecting; prodding and excavating; destroying the mine.
In the first stage, the prod man lays down a marker, a thin red board, about a metre-and-a-half long that defines the area in which he will work. He is wearing protective goggles but no armour.
Using the red board as a pivot, he works the feeler rod through the grass, then raises it up and around himself, the rod held at a 45-degree angle. This is to test for trip wires. He demonstrates the two-finger grip he uses on the slender rod: thumb and index finger.
Having detected no tripwires, he takes out a set of garden clippers and cuts the grass in the area he has defined. It is about one-and-a-half metres wide by half a metre deep.
Then the detection man arrives, with a piece of equipment resembling those used by coin hunters on Canadian beaches. This one is made in Austria; it emits various quiet electronic noises and finally some loud ones when waved over the newly clipped grassy area. The detector places a marker, this one like a little white hat, down on the ground where his machine had beeped the loudest.
There have been 40,000 mine and UXO accidents in Cambodia since 1979. One out of five victims died.
Surviving mine victims are not hard to find. In the Russian Market, popular with tourists for its silver and silk, men in military uniforms follow shoppers around, touching them on the elbow and pointing at the place where a limb used to be.
The rod man returns and digs beside the marker. There are about a dozen people watching this demonstration, which does not use a live mine, and they are dead quiet as he digs.
He pushes the feeler in sideways, then stands up and shouts something to his commander. Their exchange is translated as: ``He says he has found one. The commander says be careful.''
The detection man cleans around the exposed side of the mine with a paint brush, then reports on what kind it is. The area is now blocked off with a red cord.
It has taken 20 minutes to work on this little area. CMAC platoons clear about 500 square metres per day, if vegetation is dense, more if it is not.
With all the talk about high-tech mine-clearing machines, such as the German-made Rhino, a major need still is for a faster and safer way to clear brush.
The visitors retreat from the field and across a road, perhaps 100 metres away. Past the minefield on the other side of a fence, they can see some white oxen. There is a large bang. The mine has been detonated with TNT.
A cheer goes up from the Mines Action Group personnel. It is probably a reflex.
Charles Gordon is a columnist for The Ottawa Citizen.
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Zumalai, East Timor
Twelve soldiers from the Moncton-based 1 Construction Engineering Unit are once again finding out the meaning of the old motto: It's not just a job, it's an adventure.
The soldiers are in East Timor in support of a multinational peacekeeping force. Their mission is to create a village of 28 buildings out of an almost empty space, and to do it before Christmas.
"You definitely can't run to Canadian Tire when you need something,'' said design officer Capt. Peter Burgess of Riverview, "So the depth of planning was very significant... right down to the last nut and bolt.''
The soldiers' mission is to build housing, offices and everything that
goes with it -- electrical-generating systems, water supplies, showers,
bathrooms, waste-water treatment plants. And it has to be done in an area
where only two roofless buildings now exist.
The facilities will help serve the land-based military forces maintaining the peace in this island nation north of Australia.
Temperatures in East Timor routinely rise into the 50s Celsius, making the task that much more difficult. And monsoon season is approaching, its impending arrival signalled by almost daily downpours and lightning storms that are both impressive and oppressive by Canadian standards, but nothing like the deluges to come when the rainy season truly arrives.
When 1CEU landed a few weeks ago in the town of Zumalai, on the island's south coast, there were hardly any people and few undamaged buildings.
"It really had been razed to the ground,'' Major Pat Heffernan said. "When we arrived here, if there were a few hundred people in town, that would be it. And the town was flattened.''
Violence hit East Timor beginning in August when citizens of the former Portuguese colony, which was invaded by Indonesia in 1975, voted for independence. A slaughter ensued as anti-independence militias went on a rampage while Indonesian soldiers stood by and watched. A United Nations-endorsed international peacekeeping force moved in to quell the disturbance in late summer.
To beat the heat, the soldiers' workday begins at about 6 a.m., with a respite at midday to get out of the sun, before continuing until sundown. Even at night the temperature hovers above 30 C.
"The biggest threat to the Canadian soldiers has got to be the elements,'' Heffernan said.
To that end, the facilities they are building will have to accommodate
the climate -- lots of windows that open, plenty of fans, and every building
must be constructed about two feet off the ground, on supports, to allow
for the coming monsoon flooding.
"Is this all new to 1CEU? Well, it is different,'' Heffernan said.
Burgess recalled the arrival in East Timor of the three huge water tanks, measuring 25,000 litres each, that 1CEU needed. After examining the bridges the trucks hauling the water tanks would have to cross, it became apparent the soldiers would have to find another way.
"We had to find a helicopter to fly them in here.''
Container-loads of equipment arrived by Canadian naval ship, but there was no place for the ship to dock. The ocean-going containers had to be ferried onto a beach for pick-up.
There is no electricity in town, so options for relaxation are limited. The locals are finding enjoyment in watching the soldiers work. The soldiers work almost seven days per week.
"We're really happy to get into the construction phase, to really see what we've been designing and been looking at on paper for two weeks,'' Burgess said.
"To actually see the material turning into buildings... that's really where I'm getting my satisfaction.''
None of the soldiers made a big deal about their spartan living conditions, terming it just another aspect of their mission.
However, they all delight in seeing the local people rebuilding their
village and improving their lot in life. Since there is no television available,
the most exciting activity in the region is watching the Moncton-based
soldiers going about their work.
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December 5, 1999 Toronto Sun By Thane Burnett
VOLAKE, Kosovo -- Past a garbage dump swarmed by hungry kids and ravens,
Berisha keeps her three young grandchildren close as she pulls up water from the well.
The 60-year-old Albanian woman lives in a tiny tarp-covered shack at the edge of Volake, a dirty, side-road scar on the province's map. During the fighting with Serbian forces, she and her family fled into the nearby mountains. When they returned, they found their home had been looted and the ground is thought to be still tender with waiting explosives.
"All around are mines," Berisha says. "The children are small, so I can keep them near. But, someday, they will wander out. Of course I am afraid."
It's been two years almost to the day since the Ottawa Treaty -- formally known as the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction -- was opened for signatures at a specially-convened conference in the Canadian capital.
The treaty has been heralded internationally as a victory for human rights but it has limitations and they are being felt by people like Berisha and her grandchildren. They, like all children here, know what waits for them in the fields. A passage from a child's poem, tacked up on the wall of a mine awareness centre here, reads: "Out there they say, that landmines grow like vegetables -- row by row -- unheedful of filled earth. Far less of rain. An ugly crop. An evil harvest. Pain."
Perhaps hardest for those here to understand is one of the greatest threats they face tending to their crops or walking out for water, is not a banned anti-personnel landmine – but explosives that weren't even left behind by Serb forces.
Berisha's young charges are just as likely to set off an American BLU 97 or a British BL 755 -- NATO-dropped cluster bomblets which can be even more touchy than a landmine.
Canadian Armed Forces Major Kris Stec, a Vancouver engineer, says much of their work has been with cluster bombs -- an ordinance not used by Canadian pilots in Kosovo.
"They're not technically a landmine but they do the same job when they're sitting on the ground," Stec says, inside a command tent at the Canadians' base, Krow's Nest, in Kosovo's Glogovac district. "They've been the biggest hazard."
The bombs -- which open midflight to deliver 202 or more bomblets -- are military wonders. As they rain down, they are supposed to create a chemical reaction -- a molten jet able to push through the top of a military truck like a stone into a muddy pond. The liquid rocket then pings around the vehicle until it rips into flesh or sets off ammunition.
The bomblets also can't be trusted -- with at least 10% malfunctioning after being dispersed by the mother bomb. So they wait on the ground for new game.
During the air campaign to push Serb military and police forces out of Kosovo, NATO hit 333 targets with 945-pound cluster bombs. In all, almost 1,400 cluster bombs fell. De-miners estimate about 14,000 unexploded bomblets will need to be cleaned up along with other NATO weapons.
In fact, about 50% of the 316 civilians and de-miners blown up in Kosovo were killed or injured by cluster bombs.
Looking like large spray cans with a stiff parachute or fins at the tail, the device sits until something accidentally sets off its 125-250 gram shape-charge. The Americans are so aware of the dangers posed by the unexploded bomblets that they're coloured a tell-tale yellow or gold. But, in the dirty ground, thick with brush and crops, they vanish quickly.
"They act like a mine. To the farmer or child who steps on it, there's no real difference," says Jasper Harrison, of the German-based de-mining organization HELP.
As well as the cluster bombs, those still living in Kosovo -- Albanians and Serbs – must worry about more traditional landmines. Yugoslavia is not among the 136 countries which signed the landmine ban -- 89 of which have ratified it.
While Canadian military analysts say Serb forces, and the Albanian freedom fighters they were up against, faced problems stocking mines because of the worldwide crackdown, it didn't stop Kosovo's borders from being seeded with legal anti-tank munitions or the inner regions from being salted with universally-condemned anti-personnel devices. When they couldn't find a true mine, both sides improvised with whatever explosives they had on hand.
Of Kosovo's 10,887 square-km, it's estimated mines and unexploded ordinance affect 389.7 square-km. So far, 4.9 square-km have been cleared. When Serbs retreated, they provided records to 624 dangerous areas. But, many of the maps look more like kids' drawings than military locators.
"Some of the responsibility of placing mines landed on the shoulders of (Serb) reservists," explains British military engineer Paul Eldred, on loan to the United Nation's Mine Action Co-ordination Centre in the Kosovo hub of Pristina.
Looking over the Serb maps in the centre's main command and control room, he adds: "The accuracy is pathetic."
An agreement with the Serbs says they will bring their own de-miners back into Kosovo to take out their ordinance, but that would mean troops with the NATO-led force (KFOR) would have to protect them as they went about the work.
The thought of Serbian soldiers back in Kosovo is a political landmine for KFOR brass. There's also no guarantee the mines will still be where they left them.
Another reality of the war is that Albanian freedom fighters (KLA) dug up many Serb mines to use against their owners. While leaders of the disbanded KLA say they have taken out all their mines, officials here aren't so sure that's true. They also wonder if the Albanians are stockpiling mines for the next time they square off against the Serbs.
The village of Domanek saw some of the fiercest fighting of the war, with the KLA using a series of trenches to ferry civilians up into the nearby mountain and bring in troops to fire on a makeshift Serb police station in the middle of town.
As snow makes its way down from the high ridges, members of the International De-mining Alliance of Canada try to clear a farmer's field before the ground freezes. It's a slow, painstaking process using a mine detector and probes to clean earth filled with centuries of waste.
Project manager Gary Marsh, 48, of Winnipeg, knows there are mines around the village. One home is scarred from where a cow walked over an explosive. A short walk away, a farmer lost the wheel off his tractor, after driving over a mine set in the middle of the road. A neighbour lost a leg.
"What we won't find are the mines which have been stored away in hidden bunkers," Marsh says. "We believe if you were to look in the basements of many homes around here, you'd find mines sitting ready for the next time there's a battle. There's likely caches in the hills over there."
Farmer Halil Hoxha, 67, serving tea to the Ottawa-based de-miners, is just thankful to get rid of the ones in his backyard.
"We were concerned -- for the sake of the children," he says, adding 13 kids live in his home alone. "I was scared to go into my own field. When they finish, I'll be able to plant my cabbage and pumpkins."
When the explosives aren't an immediate threat to life, areas to be cleared go on a long list of sites which are combed over by private de-mining companies.
Many here credit the Ottawa Treaty for attracting a small army of mine hunters to the region. They are working from end to end --hoping to rid the province of most explosives in three years. Normally, it would have taken decades.
But, sometimes, a farmer hasn't the time to wait. So, he moves his tractor into a mined field anyway, or even uproots the devices himself. One local Kosovo man brags about removing more than 100 mines, claiming he can sell them on the black-market for about $100 each.
Others just want a usable field to plow.
"We've had locals pull them from the ground and put them on a shelf in their shed," says Sgt. Major Mark Saulnier, senior mine advisor for the Canadian Military in Kosovo.
His men help to educate the locals and coordinate the private firms, but are ordered to step in only if lives are immediately at stake -- a gray area in this province.
One Canadian soldier found a mine in a courtyard, sitting by a well. At least seven children were playing in the area.
"As a trained engineer, he felt he had to remove the threat. I think he made the right decision," says Saulnier, driving into a mined town using a $369,000 anti-blast vehicle that can survive anything.
His district used to have one of the highest civilian casualty rates for mines in Kosovo. Lately, the Canadians boast there haven't been any recent accidents from the mines, which can be as small as a woman's cosmetics case or as large as a good-sized frying pan.
Saulnier says despite tight budgets, his engineers are being given the right tools to search out and destroy landmines.
Canada just announced $100 million in new money to the Balkans, much of it going to schools and de-mining projects in Kosovo. But along with money, and worldwide publicity given the de-mining agencies, come suspiciously new players in the small clique of ordinance disposal experts.
Johan Sohlberg, mine awareness co-ordinator for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kosovo, adds: "There are fortune seekers. It's now easy to make money."
He worries some new firms here have rushed in for fast cash, which they will gobble up on expenses, rather than actual de-mining work.
Others do it for more noble reasons.
The Sydney, N.S. based Canadian International De-mining Centre (CIDC) has two de-miners in Kosovo, each training 15 Albanians to do the work. The locals are paid about $800 a month, with a translator getting as much as $1,200.
"The job is concentration, self-discipline and common sense," says Roger
Gumbrill, 53, a CIDC explosives expert from Dartmouth, N.S., as he loads
a truck with a box of retrieved
explosives -- including the business end of a cluster bomb, an anti-personnel mine, two hand grenades and the head of a rocket-propelled grenade.
He's defused the armaments and today it's time to take them to an abandoned Yugoslavian ammo dump to detonate.
At the foot of the long dirt road leading to the underground bunkers are the remains of destroyed chicken coops. NATO believed they were being used for weapon, possibly chemical, development. Like the concrete bunkers, the bombed farm, located west of Pristina, is now a pile of rubble.
Former KLA officer Blerim Zhivina, 30, has come to learn how to clean up a land he believes belongs to his people.
"I clear the mines so my children will be safe," he says.
"This land won't be safe for many years. If I can take one mine away, then I'm helping."
Idriz Obria, 21, wasn't afraid when he fought the Serbs in close quarters but, now, digging in the dirt to find their mines: "That scares me."
Speaking through a nurse who travels with the Canadian-trained de-miners, the young father of three adds: "The mines are a price we pay for being free. But it is better I die trying to remove them than a child dies stumbling over one."
St. Thomas native Bernie Kuhn, 34, who came to Kosovo as a reservist and now helps to check the schools, has seen the scars on the faces of young mine-blast victims in Kosovo.
"I can't imagine sending my kids off to schools where mines may have been laid," says the father of three who went to one facility where there was a mass grave of 70 people. "The kids were running around reading the names on the markers. In some cases, they were reading the names of their parents."
Despite the NATO-led force, Kosovo is still a dangerous place, where someone can be killed for a wrong ethnic hand gesture or responding in Serb to the time of day.
But there's a feeling here that, in the afterglow of the Ottawa Treaty, many people around the world thought landmines would no longer make the list of things that would kill a civilian following a modern conflict. Kosovo is proof the road to that point is long and still treacherous.
Ismail Kadare saw the backlash against landmines coming long before the Ottawa Treaty was signed. Despite the progress made in banning much of the anti-personnel hardware, the legendary Albanian writer is not surprised they are still being used in new battles of old wars.
"I wrote about them 20 years ago," says the Paris-based writer, standing in a makeshift ghetto art space in Pristina. "I hope Kosovo moves the human consciousness. It can be a moral lesson. I'm just sorry it has to be this way."
Standing by her well as her grandchildren look out to the nearby fields,
Shefkie Berisha can't afford to be so detached. She and the kids have to
live in the middle of the evil harvest.
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1. UNITS/SUB-UNITS :
a. The light infantry company group is based on A Company, 3rd Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment - the parachute company – with its engineer elements provided by 5e Régiment du Génie (based in Valcartier).
b. The National Support Element (NSE) is composed from Valcartier-based elements from the 5e Bataillon des services du Canada and the 5e Groupe de soutien de secteur.
c. The National Command Element (NCE) is composed of Canadian Forces personnel from across the country.
2. MISSION :
a. The Canadian Forces will participate in the international peacekeeping force in East Timor.
b. The light infantry company group will likely be under operational control of 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment during its mission with the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET.)
c. Possible tasks for Canadian Forces ground forces, particuliarly for the infantry company, includes patrolling rural and urban areas, providing armed security, convoy escorts and supporting humanitarian aid organizations.
d. First line logistical and medical support will be provided by the NSE. Some support will also be provided by other allied elements.
e. The NCE is a joint staff headquarters through which the Canadian Contingent Commander ensures control over all Canadian Forces assigned to INTERFET. The NCE also maintains contact with the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff through the National Defence Command Center in Ottawa.
3. STRENGTH :
Approximately 250 personnel, divided between the infantry company group, the National Support Element and the National Command Element. These numbers will be adjusted to the evolving plan.
4. ORGANIZATION :
a. Infantry company group (173 personnel) :
1.Company Command Post (18 personnel),
2.Three infantry platoons (33 personnel per platoon – total : 99)
3.Reconnaissance Platoon (21 personnel)
4.Engineer troop (31 personnel)
5.Water purification section (4 personnel)
b. National Support Element (71personnel), includes medical, supply, movement, transport, kitchen, administrative/clerical, welfare, signal and maintenance personnel, vehicles and equipment.
c. National Command Element (28 personnel), includes the command staff, liaison officers and a 10-strong military police section.
5. LOCATION :
a. The soldiers have been training in Valcartier, near Québec City.
b. Following a few days of leave, the soldiers will depart for Townsville, Australia, with first flight scheduled for 15 October 1999. They will be training with other INTERFET units in Australia.
c. The soldiers should be deploying to East Timor in the latter part of October. The exact location of the deployment is still in the planning process.
6. WEAPONS, EQUIPMENT AND VEHICLES :
a. Soldiers will have their personal weapons (rifles and pistols), kevlar helmet and ballistic protection vest. Platoon and company weapons include light mortars and machine guns. Canadian soldiers are armed and equipped to handle all anticipated tasks and threats.
b. The terrain and the weather will dictate the equipment to be utilized by the Canadian troops.
c. Equipment will include field kitchens, a Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit (ROWPU) and generators.
d. Currently, plans provide for a mix of military and commercial pattern vehicles.
7. ACTIVITIES :
a. The soldiers of the infantry company group and the NSE completed individual training, basically reviewing weapon handling drills and first aid. They have also received administrative and operational briefings.
b. Collective training before the soldier’s departure for Australia have concentrated on sentry duties, tactical movements in rural and urban environment, counter-ambush drills, counter-sniper drills and patrolling.
c. Further training will be conducted with INTERFET troops in Australia so as to better standardize communication, operational and logistical procedures, and avoid any misunderstandings during their mission in East Timor.
8. OTHER INFORMATION :
a. Average age : 29 years old
b. Number of soldiers with three operational tours or more : 40 (Note : One soldier has six operational tours.)
9. COMMANDERS :
a. Canadian Contingent Commander : Captain (Navy) Roger Girouard
b. Officer Commanding , A Compagny, 3rd Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment: Major Alain Gauthier
c. Officer Commanding, National Support Element: Major Daniel Meilleur (from 5e Bataillon des services du Canada)
Building a bridge: Lieut. Randy Dunn, and Warrant Officer Brad Montgomery are members of the 4 Engineering Support Regiment at Gagetown
They and their unit spent Tuesday constructing a temporary bridge across the Oromocto River near French Lake. It was part of an exercise called Groundwater Sapper. The bridge eventually covered a 100-metre width of the river
Now you see it, now you don't
It wasn't exactly a historical reconstruction of the famous Bridge Across the River Kwai, but it was impressive, nonetheless.
Members of the 4 Engineering Support Regiment (4ESR) at Gagetown spent the day Tuesday constructing a temporary floating bridge across the Oromocto River at Morrow Bridge, near French Lake.
The exercise, dubbed Groundwork Sapper, saw 35 personnel use new issue BBEs, or Boat, Bridge Erecting Boats, to move meticulously large sections of the transitory structure into place.
It eventually covered a 100-metre section of river stretching from bank-to-bank.
The manoeuvering, which started with huge trucks dropping the respective parts into the water, resembled a scene from the old CBC-TV hit The Beachcombers. The only difference being that those involved were not searching for logs.
"We've had our share of hiccups, which always happens when we go in training,'' Captain Al Fitzgerald said at the scene. "But things have progressed well.''
In times of emergency, an experienced crew can have a temporary bridge in place in as little as four hours.
"We like to hold these exercises as often as possible, but we have a lot of other commitments too,'' Fitzgerald added.
It's key to use private land where possible, Fitzgerald noted. That not only gives personnel a different perspective, it allows the regiment and its work to be seen by members of the public.
"That's good for our soldiers because they get a bit more sense of accomplishment. They are not training in isolation.'' Fitzgerald pointed out.
The biggest task facing engineers during the exercise, however, was not putting the pieces of the bridge in place, commented troop commander Lieut. Randy Dunn, but coping with changing river levels.
"The fluctuating water levels (apparently) from the (Mactaquac) dam have been affecting operations,'' Dunn explained.
Engineers had to place and replace a metal track needed as an entranceway to the bridge because of the rising and falling water.
At one point, the track was where it was supposed to be but then it would submerge and rise again.
"It's been a learning experience but we've overcome it,'' Dunn said. Residents of the area are reminded that an increase in military vehicles will be evident until troops move their equipment out later today.
The image born during the playing of the Battle Hymn of the Republic still flashes unexpectedly into her mind.
He is standing in uniform, smiling directly at her, and waving an ``I'm all right, Mom'' wave.
``It was strange how it started,'' says Virginia Warms. ``It was when they played the Battle Hymn of the Republic at his funeral that it came. It was as if he was there.
``I broke down during the hymn. I always do now when I hear it.''
The 60-year-old Warms, with her second husband of nearly 20 years, Abraham, sitting nearby, is talking of her only son Michael Ralph.
It's been seven years since Michael made tragic military history by becoming the first Canadian killed on duty while on the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslavia in 1992. The irony that he died on a mission to preserve peace so soon after surviving the savage war reality of Desert Storm is hard to fathom.
``He came home from Desert Storm and was worried about having to tell his wife and two children he was going away again,'' sighs Warms in her northeast Calgary apartment.
``They'd just bought a new house in New Brunswick. He told them he had to go, moved them into their new home, threw his gear in the truck, and drove away.''
None of his family ever saw Michael alive again. On Aug. 17, 1992, the sergeant died instantly when the vehicle he was driving set off a landmine.
The 32-year-old Canadian, so proud of the mine-clearing mission which made life safe for kids, had loved his bomb clearance job so much he intended to make it a post-military career with a police force.
The morning Virginia and Abraham were leaving their then home of Hinton for the New Brunswick funeral, a letter came from Michael's wife, Lorraine, containing pictures of his two daughters, Katy, then 3, and Rachel, 4.
Eerily, Michael's last letter arrived at the same time.
``You don't need to worry,'' he wrote. ``I'm fine and am doing very well. I'm supposed to leave here on the 15th of October to come home . . .''
That year, for the first time as a relative of a soldier killed in action, Virginia attended a Remembrance Day service.
``I found it an awful ordeal,'' she says, adding she only managed to
attend one more after that.
But something has changed. She called after reading a Remembrance Day column here recently in which I mentioned that survivors of war and present-day peacekeepers should also be remembered.
``People naturally think of World War I and World War II when it comes to Remembrance Day,'' she says at her home.
``Soldiers like Michael die in so-called peacetime, too. And they should be remembered along with all the others. The survivors of the world wars and the others -- and the relatives of those lost -- are becoming fewer and fewer. It's time for a new generation to pick up the torch and carry on the remembrance,'' she says.
That is why this Nov. 11, the mother of a brave son will seek a similar
courage within herself.
She will begin attending Remembrance Day services again to think of Michael -- and all the others just like him.