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Sergeant's Death Heightens Mine Awareness

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 1996 – At the moment, no one knows exactly what U.S. Army Sgt.1st Class Donald A. Dugan found in that muddy field near Gradacac, 40 kilometers north of Tuzla. It may have been a mine, a dud artillery round or booby trap.

Whatever it was, Dugan's death and the growing number of incidents involving unexploded ordnance have heightened DoD's efforts to keep mine awareness a lifeordeath priority.

Seven incidents have occurred so far, according to DoD officials. Dugan, 38, from Belle Center, Ohio, assigned to A Troop, 1st Squadron 1st Cavalry, 1st Armored Division, Buedingen, Germany, was the first American fatality. Other NATO nations with troops in Bosnia also have suffered mine or ordnancerelated casualties.

U.S. forces have the best countermine equipment available, but it is not 100 percent effective, according to Lt. Gen. Howell M. Estes III, director of operations for the Joint Staff. "We've had cases in Bosnia where we have done everything we know how to do to clear mines from a road and had a vehicle run down that road later and set a mine off," Estes said.

Estes said winter hampers mine detection. "One of the problems we're having with antipersonnel mines, for example, is they've gotten in the frozen ground and the fuze freezes. So you can put pressure on it, and because of the ice in it, it doesn't detonate the mine. So we operate over that area for a month or two and then we have a mine incident and everybody says, 'What happened?'"

One reason DoD deployed an armored force was to provide service members more protection, Estes said. Armored vehicles have set off mines and lost a track, he added, but there have been no casualties because of the protection the vehicles afford.

DoD is deploying more countermine equipment to Bosnia, Estes said. U.S. forces currently field 60 mine plows, rollers and combat engineer vehicles. These vehicles either push surface mines off to the side or roll ahead to detonate mines. The Army is sending another 10 mine plows to Bosnia.

Three robotic minedetecting systems are in Bosnia. DoD is sending another eight, Estes said. These systems are mounted on tanks or fiveton truck chassis. Service members remotely control the system as they detect and mark mines. The system has infrared sensors to help detect the heat signatures of mines.

Armor kits, ordered by the Army to protect vehicle bellies, are beginning to arrive in Bosnia this month, Estes said. The Army is also procuring 3,000 Kevlar blankets for vehicle floors, he said.

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