Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division spent two weeks going house-to-house in Bosnia-Herzegovina last month asking people to turn in illegal weapons left over from the Bosnian War. During the "Active Harvest" campaign, soldiers knocked on more than 19,000 doors.

Isle troops nearly
pau in Bosnia

Schofield soldiers finish up
their task to confiscate weapons
in Bosnia-Herzegovina

What they found

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Schofield Barracks soldiers were surprised at the number of arms and explosives confiscated in the first door-to-door weapons collection in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"There were no surprises of the type of weapons that were turned in," said Sgt. Joshua Miller, a member of Company B, 14th Infantry Regiment, "but I think the big surprise was the quantity of weapons and explosives that were actually harvested during the operation."

It was one of the last missions for the soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division who will be replaced next month by Pennsylvania Army National Guard troops from the 28th Infantry Division (Mechanized).

During the two-week campaign last month, the Tropic Lightning soldiers knocked on more than 19,000 doors and visited established weapons turn-in points in towns and villages in northeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. The campaign, dubbed "Active Harvest," was part of an ongoing effort to collect illegal weapons left over from the Bosnian war.

"Active Harvest is an annual weapons collection program that began in 1998," said Maj. Nancy Markowski, 25th Division spokeswoman. "In the past, it was conducted by establishing collection points in various towns throughout the area, and encouraging the local population through media announcements, posters and handbills to bring in their illegal and unwanted weapons and ordnance."

"This year, however, we've done it a bit differently. Patrols of soldiers actually go door-to-door in towns, villages and rural areas throughout Multinational Division (North), which is the U.S. sector of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and ask people if they have anything to turn in," Markowski added.

The program began in April, with the Nordic-Polish Battle Group, and each of the battalion task forces within the division taking turns combing the local neighborhoods for illegal weapons and ordnance. When the U.S. completed its weapons sweep, the Russian military contingent continued the collection program in its area of responsibility.

"The weapons aren't confiscated," Markowski said, "Active Harvest has been, and still is, a voluntary program. Local communities have been very cooperative in turning in their weapons; it's as if people have realized that they won't be returning to a state of war, and they don't need this stuff anymore."

Between March through August the entire program collected 849 rifles, 182 machine guns, 41 handguns, 187 rocket launchers, nearly 389,000 rounds of ammunition, 473 land mines, nearly 7,470 grenades, and 100,606 grams of TNT.

Sgt. Ernest Grover, an 11-year Army veteran, said: "If we got a grenade and it saved one life, it was worth it. I thought the program was very good. Educating people about grenades was rewarding to me because they did not know how dangerous they are."

Grover, who is on his second Bosnia peacekeeping tour, added that "some of the people were scared and didn't know what to expect when they saw soldiers come to their door."

But in the end he believed they were supportive with some expressing that they were not enthused over the reduced number of U.S. soldiers who will be assigned to future peacekeeping missions.

Pvt. Chris Palmer, 21, said that although he supports the program, he believes the citizens would be allowed to keep weapons to protect themselves.

More than 1,000 Tropic soldiers began their peacekeeping duties as members of the 11th rotation of the Stabilization Force in April. They were part of a multinational team consisting of more than 4,500 soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and civilians from 14 different countries conducting peacekeeping operations in support of Operation Joint Forge.

The mission was the first-ever deployment to Europe for the Schofield Barracks soldiers, although the division has deployed to different parts of the world over the past 63 years, including Pacific islands in World War II, the Korean peninsula, Vietnam and Haiti.

The first contingent to complete its six-month Bosnia peacekeeping duties returned home last month with the rest of the soldiers expected back throughout this month and October.



Collecting an arsenal

Company B, 14th Infantry Regiment, as part of Task Force Dragon between July 19-Aug. 17, recovered:

>> 218 rifles
>> 37 machine guns
>> 9 handguns
>> 11 shotguns
>> 66,041 rounds of ammunition
>> 14 anti-tank mines
>> 56 anti-personnel mines
>> 1,459 grenades
>> 154 pieces of unexploded ordnance
>> 27 mortar rounds
>> 38 pounds of dynamite

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