Monday, January 23, 2006

Mines, Aardvarks, Hydremas and Sappers

I realize the title of this post sounds like a list of things found in a computer fantasy game, but it isn't...

Mine warning sign - US.

Mines were (and still are) everywhere near Bagram AF. The Soviets left millions of the things laid in belts around the base.

Old Soviet mine belts laid between posts strung with barbed wire.

When the post-Soviet government was ousted, the mines were still there. They had done nothing about them. The short lived successor regime couldn't do much - they ended up in a fight with the Taliban. That's where it got really ugly. Bagram changed hands no less than 9 times in a 21 month period of 1999-2001. The Northern Alliance/Rabbani government moved mines around into positions to defend from Taliban attack. The Taliban moved mines to stop them from retaking Bagram. Both sides imported more mines to lay. Nobody recorded where they went, nobody marked them. Even the previously marked ones "migrated" some, due to weather, the fierce wind erosion.
All too many people were hurt or killed on these mines. Our medics treated somebody EVERY week from the area who had struck a mine. Way too many were kids - being naturally curious, and wont to go exploring new places. I have previously discussed some efforts to stop this - and what the Taliban remnants thought of this.

The Aardvark

We had several ways of clearing these things out. Mechanical means were best - faster, safer for those involved. The Aardvark whirled its ball and chain mechanism up front to set off the mines - and the occasional chain whirling through the air after a sharp boom told us it was working...

Hydrema flail

They Hydrema was a similar device, but had it's larger, heavier flails back mounted. It hit harder and deeper to get the real bad ones - Anti-tank mines mixed in with your normal anti-personnel ones. The dust clouds these things generated were awe-inspiring.

Polish engineers/sappers

Sometimes, specialized troops would go over an area - since the machinery couldn't get everything. During my time on Bagram, a fair amount of that work went to the Polish engineers. They were a very busy bunch.

I didn't really mean for this post to be so large - and I have left out describing some of the efforts of other good people - the Halo Trust, the Mine Action Centre (UN and Coalition supported) and private contractors such as RONCO. It is a subject worth looking at, should you find yourself with a few minutes on hand.


Blogger prairie biker said...

Amazing. Even more amazing when you consider the French are still clearing the Verdunne after that mess of 90 years ago.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Muslihoon said...

Wow. I'm glad there's equipment and people that can do something about this. Mines are very nasty stuff.

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I saw a note about the flailing chain on a tank turret to clear mines as an idea that Churchill had proposed to protect British troops.

On the same program, 'they' mentioned that British troops in Africa went thru German minefields by prodding the ground/sand in front of them with their bayonets, while crawling on their tummies.

12:57 AM  

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