New facility offers engineer information from Bosnia, by Jacqueline Guthrie (Feb. 27)


WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- Forget snow, mud, poverty and war. Anyone can participate in the Sava River bridge crossing or find and mark a mine in Bosnia at the Center for Army Engineer Lessons Learned library in the Engineer School at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo..

Bill Blackwell, a lessons-learned analyst for the doctrine development division of the Department of Training and Development, maintains this engineer professional reading area by collecting and disseminating all engineer lessons learned.

"Any type of professional, teachers, doctors, lawyers or engineers, if they're going to maintain their abilities, are going to have to do some type of professional reading," he stressed. He collects engineer information and makes it available to the engineer community.

Publications from the Center for Army Lessons Learned, or CALL, in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., make up the majority of the library, he said. But the library also has current and past issues of "Engineer" Magazine, "Soldiers" Magazine and a variety of other military publications.

"I eventually hope to add a display of the latest (technical) engineer publications," publications fresh off the press that haven't gotten to everyone in the field, Blackwell explained.

In addition to the files, magazines and books on display, Blackwell maintains a collection of detailed files on most engineer operations and can supply a customer with any data they may need.

The newest additions to the library are Bosnia reading files. These files contain detailed reports of bridging, building and countermine operations now going on in Bosnia.

Blackwell said he started assembling these files in December when troops first started going to Bosnia. Topics of interest include bridging operations, such as the Sava River crossing, and countermine activities. He also has a folder of "critical commander information requirement" reports.

According to Blackwell, soldiers publish these reports for Col. Hans Van Winkle, deputy chief of staff for engineering in Europe. Van Winkle, a former deputy assistant commandant at the Engineer School, is the senior engineer on the Army's European staff and oversees engineer operations in Bosnia.

These reports give unclassified accounts of engineer activities in Bosnia including construction, snow removal, bridging, mapping, environmental and fire protection operations.

"A lot of the stuff is e-mail messages about what is happening, from Maj. Walter 'Shep' Barge, said Blackwell. Barge is an engineer representative from Fort Leonard Wood now serving on the CALL team in Bosnia.

"Any operation (the Army) goes on, CALL sends a combined arms assessment team," said Capt. Kelly Slaven, doctrine writer with DOTD. Slaven was also a member of the CALL team that went to Haiti.

The team observes and documents operations, then publishes the results for all to learn from, he said.

"The lessons learned is developing ... so we don't repeat mistakes made in the past," he added.

Forty people from all branches of the Army make up the CALL team in Bosnia. Three are engineers, Slaven said. Barge and Master Sgt. Michael McAlister are from Fort Leonard Wood.

When they return from Bosnia they will write complete synopses of their activities. Until then, however, brief situation reports keep everyone abreast of current activities. These ''sitreps'' are also available in the lessons learned library.

Blackwell also keeps files downloaded from "BosniaLink" on the Internet, letters from soldiers in the field, decision briefs and copies of the "Engineer Contingency Handbook."

Engineer School experts published this handbook back in 1993 to give soldiers a comprehensive guide about mines in the former Yugoslavia, Slaven said. It recently has became a very popular commodity. More than 10,000 have been distributed throughout Europe and Bosnia, he said.

"(The handbook) is a rundown on tactics and procedures for employing mines in Bosnia," he said. Not only does it give thorough written facts, the handbook gives soldiers color photos to help identify mines, Slaven said. And it fits in a soldiers' cargo pocket, he added, so they can easily use it in the field.

At least 10 to 15 people visit the library a week, Blackwell said, but recently it has been almost 10 to 15 a day.

(From a Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs news release)