Friday, July 4, 2008

Coalition group removes mines from Afghan battlefields

by Pvt. Tamara Gabbard
CJTF-101

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (June 30, 2008) — Afghanistan was heavily mined by Soviet forces during their 10-year occupation, ending in February 1989. Then, as the Taliban and Northern Alliance fought, they continued to lay out mines to protect their supply routes, airfields, military posts and front lines. The Mine Action Center [MAC], led by Australian Army Maj. David Bergman, here, works to remove these mines, which after 10 years, are still an obstacle to the relief, rehabilitation and developmental projects geared toward the re-growth of Afghanistan.

Australian Army Maj. David Bergman (from right), Bagram Airfield's Mine Action Center officer in charge, and Army Maj. Paul V.Grahm, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, meet with Kefayatullah Eblagh, president of Hemaya Bros. International Demining Company, during a visit to a minefieldThe MAC met with Kefayatullah Eblagh, the president of Hemayat Brothers International Demining Company, June 21, to discuss future plans for an area they are demining outside BAF. “I am from a village in this area and to be able to help my fellow Afghans makes me have a sense of pride,” said Eblagh. “Not only are we helping by de-mining the area, we are also giving the locals in the area an opportunity to work so that they can make money to feed their families.”

Though Coalition forces try to be very proactive in mine detection and removal, reactive forces are also in place when necessary. The MAC works with Craig Joint Theater Hospital to ensure villagers and civililans are cared for in the event they fall victim to mines. “Just the presence that the Mine Action Center brings makes a difference,” said Air force Maj. Phyllis F. Jones, Intensive Care Ward Flight commander. “Just the removal of one mine is a big step in the fight for freedom in Afghanistan.”

Still, Afghan and Coalition officials are not the sole pool of mine-related knowledge. The BAF area is home to many victims with their own stories to tell. “I was herding our cows in a field and they started straying,” said Romina, a 12-year-old Afghan mine victim, who lost his leg to a mine and was treated at Craig JTH. “All I remember is swatting them with a limb and the next thing I know I am on the ground and my sister is laying a little ways away from me bleeding. I didn’t even realize my leg was gone until I looked over and saw it.” Fortunately for Romina, help was not far away when his tragedy struck. A medical task force was on a nearby mission when this explosion occurred and was able to react expediently. Though Romina was treated on scene and soon taken to BAF for hospital care, it took an additional four days to locate his family through local nationals that lived in the area around where it happened. The fact is, for many Afghans, mine accidents are a common occurrence. Afghan people are accustomed to mine strikes and are already striving to survive in a mine-ridden land, said Bergman. Still, he continued, “they need all the help that they can get.”

In cases like Romina’s, where the air field’s hospital is involved, the MAC has to do an investigation. With the removal of the shrapnel they do reports on it and try to scope out the area where the explosion happened to try and figure out what steps they can take next. “An estimated one to two people a week get hurt and brought in by these mine explosions,” said Bergman. “If it is a local national, we take on the complete investigation. But if it is a contractor, it is our duty to get all the information about the incident and the shrapnel and hand it into their company’s investigation department.”

Afghans have many ways to mark and warn people of mine locations. Sometimes they use red and white rocks, and other times they use bilingual signs – which are located in a lot of areas around BAF. “We try as hard as we can to let the people know where the mines are and to stay away,” said Bergman. A lot of the people dig in these areas for scrap metal, since it pays well on the market, creating other serious problems with keeping the number of victims closer to none. “We do the best we can. (But, really,) what can you do?” stated Bergman. “This is these peoples way of living, and sometimes there is just no stopping them (from digging for scrap metal). People need money to live and to them, metal is money.”

With every mine that is lifted, it is another step in making Afghanistan a safer place for the people who live here. The MAC ensures their mission is done with safety and precision, from contracting to caring. They work by the motto, “Demining is a dangerous job. Where once you cautiously followed and stepped in my footsteps, you can now have the confidence to lead and make your own.”

PHOTO: Australian Army Maj. David Bergman (from right), Bagram Airfield's Mine Action Center officer in charge, and Army Maj. Paul V.Grahm, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, meet with Kefayatullah Eblagh, president of Hemaya Bros. International Demining Company, during a visit to a minefield.

Source: CENTCOM.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please be respectful of others, so they may be respectful to you. Have a blessed day.