CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo (April 6, 2016) -- Since the end of the Kosovo war in 1999 men, women and children have been working to rebuild their war-torn region. A quick drive through the main cities proves there is optimism in the rebuilding as many of the streets are lined with smiling faces and newly constructed stores.
While the people of Kosovo work diligently to rebuild their countryside, remnants of war continue to resurface. Every year, hundreds of pieces unexploded ordnance and munition left over from war are unearthed and exposed to unsuspected pedestrians.
While no one can calculate exactly how many of these UXOs are hidden within Kosovo, teams of explosive ordnance disposal members from Kosovo Force and NATO are working together with the Kosovars to eliminate the threat.
Multinational explosive ordnance disposal teams from the Kosovo Security Forces, Switzerland, Ukraine, Moldova, and U.S. armies came together at the Orahovac Demolition Range for a joint operation to dispose of more than 60 UXOs, April 4.
The operation also marked the beginning of the demining season in Kosovo.
"By getting rid of the UXO's we are taking a danger away from the public space," said Maj. Alex Spora, Swiss EOD detachment commander. "This is what the basic function of an EOD team is. We try to protect the public from the explosive hazards being left out in the country."
Among the pile of explosives turned over to the KSF and NATO were a mixture of anti-tank mines, grenades, mortars, and rocket propelled grenades. Each pile of UXO's highlights a different era of war in the Balkan regions.
"We cannot forget that Kosovo and a major part of the Balkans has been a battlefield for centuries which means we have old munitions dating back to 1912, 1914 into the 1990's," said Spora.
For many Kosovo soldiers like Cpl. Roland Reshitaj, of KSF EOD Company, forgetting that his land was once a battlefield is not an option and instead said he uses it as motivation when doing his job.
"Every demo makes Kosovo a safer place," said Reshitaj. "When we do a demo, in our mind we think we are doing our job right and we are so proud."
While the KSF have an invested interest since it is their region and their people, Spora and the members of the Kosovo Force team share the weight of keeping the Kosovars safe.
"We share the common language as EOD techs, we share common burdens and challenges…this is what makes us brothers in arms," said Spora.
With the demining season just starting, the KFOR and KSF EOD teams are preparing for a busy season but are prepared to tackle the challenges that lay ahead, shoulder to shoulder.
"The KSF teams are very professional, they're very capable, they have a very good relationship with the KFOR EOD teams. We work very well together," said Spora.
"Glad to be part of this operation," said Reshitaj. "I am so happy to work with the other countries."