BOOBY TRAPS, FIELD EXPEDIENTS,
BOOBY TRAPS, FIELD EXPEDIENTS,
AND MINE CLEARANCE
A. MINE STRIKES/DETONATIONS
SITUATION: An MP HMMWV ran over a land mine near the SAVA River. One soldier was seriously injured when the mine exploded under the vehicle. The soldier was quickly evacuated to the MASH unit north of the river and received immediate medical care.
- The patrol became misoriented and got off the approved route.
- The patrol didn't verify its location by map analysis or "Slugger."
- The side route the patrol was traveling was covered with snow and had no tracks on it.
- The side route was narrow with steep side slopes, making it impossible to turn around.
- The patrol had lost communications with higher HQ.
TTP!!! Positional awareness is vital for maneuver in high mine threat areas.
TTP!!! Complete dissemination of known obstacle data is a precondition for maneuver in high mine threat areas.
TTP!!! When you momentarily lose track of where you are, immediately stop and verify your location (use a GPS instead of driving around looking for a known point).
TTP!!! Maintain communications with higher HQ.
TTP!!! Untravelled routes (no snow tracks) that are not easily bypassed are very high threat minefield locations. Backing out, however difficult, is better than proceeding forward into a high minefield threat area.
More Observations from the Landmine Incident
- Although the blast from the landmine effectively destroyed the HMMWV, soldier injuries were mitigated because they were all wearing their Kevlar vests and helmets with chinstraps fastened.
- The soldiers reported being thrown violently inside the vehicle, with heads banging on the dashboard and the frame of the vehicle.
- The force of the blast bruised their upper torsos.
TTP!!! Doctors assessed that their Kevlar vests and helmets were the primary reason the soldiers weren't much more seriously injured.
TTP!!! After the incident, the soldiers credited their mine awareness training with enabling them to react properly and exit the minefield without further injury.
- A Swedish APC hit an AT mine; the detonation was at the left rear and injured six soldiers, two seriously.
- A Swedish APC was traveling on the primary path of a cleared route.
- Some of the internal ammunition load in the APC detonated; the track and some of the road wheels were destroyed.
- The soldiers were observing from open hatches. One soldier was thrown clear.
- Response to the mine strike to include organization of the scene and MEDEVAC was excellent.
TTP!!! UN experience has been that open hatches generally minimize overpressure and other negative effects of mine blast.
- A Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle struck an anti-tank (AT) mine on a road previously cleared by VRS soldiers.
- The BFV suffered a damaged track and road wheels.
- The VRS unit that cleared the road had reported that the road had been muddy when they cleared it, and they could not locate two mines. Civilian vehicles were seen using the road safely.
- The road had not been proofed or cleared by U.S. forces.
During subsequent investigation of the site by a Serb-U.S. team, soldiers were
careful to stand in their vehicle tracks.
Just prior to departure, a U.S. officer stepped backwards, out of the vehicle track (6-8 inches). He detonated a PMA-3 antipersonnel mine and fell on a live TMM-1 AT mine which did not detonate.
- Combat lifesavers and other individuals on the scene carefully isolated the soldier from further injury and organized a rapid casualty evacuation.
TTP!!! Constant situational awareness is key in a mined area. Assurance of clearance by one of the factions is not a guarantee of safety, particularly near the line of confrontation, where the ground has exchanged hands several times.
SITUATION: A tank platoon encountered a mined area. Attempting to turn around, the lead tank was making a wide turn when it struck two AT mines -- one with each track. Two additional, adjacent AT mines detonated. Although the tank was heavily damaged, the crew only suffered shock and minor shrapnel injuries to the Tank Commander. The additional mine detonations may have been caused by overpressure and sympathetic detonation.
TTP!!! When in doubt in the vicinity of mined areas, back vehicles in their own tracks rather than attempt to make wide turns.
SITUATION: Faction clearing teams, followed by U.S. clearing teams, had cleared a route from both directions up to their perceived boundaries, but departed, leaving a 100-meter uncleared gap. An M1 with mineroller punched through the gap to the Muslim side, and then carefully backed through its own tracks. The CEV then followed the exact tracks of the M1/mineroller to the Serb side, striking an AT mine. The AT mine damaged the CEV track and bumper spring; no personnel injuries were sustained. The crew remained mounted until properly evacuated.
TTP!!! Mines deteriorate over time and perform unpredictably. One-hundred percent "proofing" of a lane is generally not feasible short of complete physical examination of soil to buried mine depth.
The Russian Brigade assigned to Task Force Eagle experienced two mine incidents.
Thankfully no one was injured.
- A BTR-D was moving on a well-traveled, hard surface road and struck a buried AT mine. The road had recently thawed and the mine was located on the side of the road that had been covered in snow. Significant damage was done to the vehicle, but the soldiers escaped serious injury.
- An engineer unit, conducting mine-clearing operations, hit a trip-wire to an anti-personnel mine.
TTP!!! Soldiers were well-dispersed and took appropriate action when the mine was triggered.
- These incidents highlight the need for constant Mine Awareness. Always review your unit Mine Awareness Procedures. Be Mine Aware!
DISCUSSION: An FWF work party, with possibly some civilian participation, was clearing mines and filling in a trenchline that was once occupied by an FWF during the war. One FWF had not obtained mine data information from another FWF. However, there were mine warning signs written in Cyrillic pointing toward the area that was being cleared. The area was being cleared in preparation for an upcoming celebration and was not observed by TFE forces. While clearing the area, a soldier stepped on or tripped a PROM-1 (Bouncing Betty), killing two soldiers and wounding nine others. The large number of casualties can be attributed to soldiers filling in the trenchline in proximity of the detonation. As a result of the mine explosion, dry grass surrounding the area ignited, causing two other mines within several meters of one another to explode.
TTP!!! As the season changes and temperatures warm, locals burn dry grassy areas to aid in future growth and to clear mines. This can be dangerous for soldiers along roads and at checkpoints. Soldiers should be aware, and stay clear, of locals burning dry grass along roads and checkpoints.
SITUATION: A vehicle struck an anti-personnel mine. The strike occurred after the vehicle made a wrong turn during a routine movement. The element consisted of one vehicle and two personnel. No one was injured, but the rear tires were punctured rendering the vehicle inoperable. After checking the grid with a Global Positioning System (GPS), it was determined that the vehicle was in minefield No. 2903. The officer in charge decided to remain in place and call his higher headquarters. He could not effect contact on the command net, but was successful using the MEDEVAC frequency. The report was forwarded to the brigade tactical operations center (TOC). It was decided not to attempt extraction of the personnel during the hours of darkness. The next morning an extraction team consisting of a minesweeping vehicle, personnel from the Explosive Ordnance Detachment (EOD), and a mine dog team moved to the site. The minesweeping vehicle cleared to within 200 meters of the site of the mine strike. The mine dogs were then used to identify a clear path for the remaining distance and the personnel were extracted. After the extraction, EOD discovered four TMA-3 AT mines and 17 PMA-3 anti-personnel mines.
DISCUSSION: Although the incident occurred because of poor navigation, the actions after the mine strike were sound. Those actions confirm that TFE soldiers learned the lessons from previous mine strikes and the mine awareness training.
TTP!!! Although communications could not be immediately established with the higher headquarters, the MEDEVAC frequency was used to establish contact.
TTP!!! Opposed to moving from the site, risking another mine strike, the element remained at the location and waited for assets capable of clearing the area to arrive.
TTP!!! The element had sufficient food and water to remain at the location for an extended period of time.
TTP!!! The task organization and tactics of the extraction team proved to be effective. The employment of mine dogs was also effective.
- Based on a series of TFE Mine Awareness AARs, soldiers noted that safe mine strike recovery operations begin even before a mine hit.
TTP!!! If possible, vehicles should have two cables to expedite recovery in case of a mine strike -- one on the front, and one on the rear.
TTP!!! The rear cables should be attached to the lower mounts. This technique allows crews to hook up to a disabled vehicle without touching the ground.
When employing an M-88 Recovery Vehicle after a mine strike, keep the following
information in mind:
TTP!!! Recovery personnel can then walk down the tracks made by the disabled vehicle to hook up the cable.
TTP!!! If the disabled vehicle is on a curve, recovery crews generally will have to bring the M-88 or another armored vehicle up to the disabled vehicle and use a tow bar to recover the disabled vehicle. If the M-88 must use a tow bar, the route to the disabled vehicle must be carefully cleared, remembering that the M-88 has wider tracks.
DISCUSSION: While clearing brush with explosives near Slovanski Brod, a sympathetic explosion of a suspected AT mine occurred. The mine was under the water table and buried in the mud - - because the area was under water, it had not been proofed. No one was injured, and there was no damage to equipment. It is believed that the overpressure caused by the explosives initiated the sympathetic detonation of the mine.
TTP!!! The overpressure of an explosion can cause sympathetic detonations of mines that are under water. Units that are conducting mine clearing (or operations which involve the use of explosives) in the vicinity of rivers, streams and other bodies of water need to be aware of this phenomenon.
OBSERVATION: Three PMA-3 antipersonnel mines detonated in the Russian Sector, injuring five Russian Soldiers.
DISCUSSION: The Russian Brigade dispatched a team of seven soldiers to investigate a reported mine strike by an UNHCR vehicle. The Russian team departed the day after the UNHCR vehicle hit the mine. The team dismounted their vehicle at a former Russian checkpoint about 70 meters north of the accident site. They were equipped with two mine detectors and several probes. After proofing in a single file for about 150 meters and finding nothing, they turned back and headed for their vehicles. A PMA-3 mine detonated when the team was about 70 meters from its vehicles. One soldier fell on two other mines causing them to detonate. Four other soldiers were injured as a result.
Investigation indicates the route was not frequently traveled. There were no visible vehicle tracks past the incident site, and the road was not used by locals. The incident occurred in a known minefield, reportedly cleared by a FWF observed by an IFOR unit. A PMA-3 minecap found nearby appeared to be old, so the mines may have been in place for some time. The soldier who stepped on the mine walked off the cleared path. Since this mine causes injury primarily by explosion, not fragmentation, the other four soldiers injured may have been close together when the incident took place.
DISCUSSION: A unit was making drawings of areas along the IEBL. Upon task completion, the convoy was oriented westward on Route Fanta, an improved road surface. To return to their base camp, the convoy had to turn around. They located an unimproved road that they could back into and turn around. As each vehicle turned around, it was forced to pass the vehicle following it on the improved surface road. The lead vehicle had little trouble passing the other three vehicles in the convoy. The second vehicle passed the third vehicle without any problems. However, as it was passing the trail vehicle in the convoy, it struck an anti-tank mine with the front tire of the vehicle. See diagram.
Engineers assessed that the FWF may have buried a mine under the improved surface road and the weight of the vehicle had caused the asphalt to sink, detonating the mine. The mine destroyed the entire front of the HMMWV. Soldiers in three of the HMMWVs sustained injuries.
B. BOOBY TRAPS/FIELD EXPEDIENTS AND FACTION MINE TACTICS
SITUATION: During a patrol of the Zone of Separation, a platoon encountered an unoccupied building.
Before entering through the door of the building, the patrol carefully examined
the building interior through a side window.
The patrol demonstrated excellent booby trap awareness in their actions before entering the building: exercise caution; let EOD handle booby trap problems.
- A local civilian approached a checkpoint and complained that an unoccupied, partially destroyed house had been booby trapped.
- A patrol was send to investigate, and verified that there was one SPK M79 grenade rigged to the door of the house.
TTP!!! The patrol did not attempt to clear the booby trap. They marked the house and the adjacent street with mine warning signs and reported the situation to their higher headquarters. The FWFs are required to remove mines and booby traps, not IFOR soldiers.
The unit handled this situation correctly:
SITUATION: In separate incidents within the TFE area of operations, two booby traps detonated causing injuries to a civilian boy and a civilian man. In the first case, the boy was given a gym bag and was told that it contained toys and cigarettes. When the boy opened the bag, it detonated. In the second case, the elderly man saw a coke can sitting on top of a coat which was lying on the ground. When he moved the can to retrieve the coat, the can exploded.
RESULT: The devices caused injury to both the boy and the man. They were taken out of the area by TFE personnel, treated and transferred to civilian care. Fortunately, their injuries are not serious.
SITUATION: During a national election period, refugees may take the opportunity to return to their homes. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) estimates that as many as 130,000 refugees may attempt to return home in conjunction with the elections. Various factions throughout TFE's area of responsibility tried to block the return of refugees to their former homes. In the past, the Former Warring Factions (FWFs) used booby traps to prevent their return. Previously, soldiers found booby traps in Coke cans, gym bags, and rigged to doors of unoccupied houses.
DISCUSSION: During the early months of the deployment, TFE soldiers experienced isolated incidents in which they had to deal with booby traps. The majority of booby traps found by TFE soldiers were in areas that were being evacuated by one faction and then occupied by another. This may be the case when refugees begin to arrive around election time. TFE soldiers need to approach every possible booby trap as suspect and take appropriate actions.
C. MINE CLEARANCE OPERATIONS
DISCUSSION: A unit was conducting a proofing mission using the Panther, which is a remote-controlled M60 chassis with roller. The order of march during the mission was the factions, the Panther, a M113 Panther control vehicle, an engineer squad, M2 for security, and a medical M113. After the route was cleared, the Panther was used to make several passes over the road to ensure that it was free of mines. During one of the passes, a soldier in the control vehicle heard a noise that sounded like "a balloon popping" and saw a white puff of smoke from the left side of the Panther. After the blast, the platoon leader stopped the operation, determined that no one was injured and reported the mine detonation to his higher headquarters. The Panther was then backed out to a safe location so it could be checked for damage. After determining that the Panther was undamaged, it was driven over the road several more times.
The appropriate measures were executed after the detonation:
TTP!!! Small anti-personnel mines can pass through the gaps in the rollers. Consequently, several passes, moving forward and then backward, should be made, ensuring that each stretch of the route is overlapped with a roller.
DISCUSSION: A unit was conducting minefield clearance with one of the factions. The mines were stockpiled and EOD emplaced explosives to destroy the mines. All personnnel moved to a safe location and EOD ignited the fuse. A common event that occurs everyday in the ZOS until . . .
A soldier saw a farmer walking down a trail toward the field. The farmer had been working the same fields for years and knew where the mines were, so he went about his business as usual. The soldiers finally alerted the farmer and he moved to safety. However, an older man, unseen by the soldiers, was behind the farmer and continued moving along the trail. The demolitions exploded, and the second man was knocked to the ground, unhurt, but obviously startled.
Fortunately the second man was not seriously injured. However, the whole incident might have been avoided.
TTP!!! Once it is determined when and where the mine demolition will take place, use your translators or CA personnel to notify the populace that mine clearance is being conducted and that they need to stay out of the area. Tell them how long so they will know when they can go back to work.
TTP!!! Prior to the conduct of a clearance mission, conduct a reconnaissance to determine routes into the area, particularly those farmers would use.
TTP!!! Consider putting bullhorns on your equipment list for mine clearance operations. The bullhorns (or air horns) can help alert civilians who accidentally wander into the area. If available, use a TPT loudspeaker team to explain the signals to the local populace.
TTP!!! Clearly mark all routes leading into the area with signs notifying the populace that mine clearing operations are being conducted.
Chapter II: Operations, Security, and Tactics
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