Kosovo USAR (Urban Search & Rescue) project Nov 08

I recently had the opportunity to represent Operation Florian in Kosovo, the mission was to deliver refresher training following on from that of 2006, train instructors and explore more specialized skills under the Urban Search and Rescue umbrella. I heard about Op. Florian through my Crew Manager, Dave Phillips. Dave was part of the initial mission to Kosovo and encouraged me to fill out an application form and state my interest; I of course did so and was later offered the chance to participate.

I was asked to head out for the final two weeks of a five week programme and with the co-operation and understanding of my Station Manager, Neil Woodmansey and all the lads on my watch we managed to find the time to allow me to be detached.

I made my way to Gatwick, and after a little trouble parking I met up with Florian veteran and Balkans legend Trevor (MR T) Green. Trevor was kind enough to talk me through some of his previous Florian operations and outline the work and working methods involved.

When we landed in Kosovo I was immediately informed that some of the KPC members from the course had lined up an evenings entertainment for the instructors. I won’t go into details but needless to say a good time was had by all and I was immediately struck by the friendliness of all the KPC lads.

My first weeks training was an advanced shoring course. We instructors from the UK delivered the lectures in the morning before encouraging the nine hand picked local instructors to take the lead on the practical side. The idea behind this is that these instructors can continue to develop the training of the group after we have gone. This worked very well and all the instructors had first rate knowledge and ability.

We chose 24 pupils to come back for the final week, they were split into two groups and each did two days chainsaw and two days lifting and moving. Myself and CM Phillips taught the chainsaw. As we understood most of the course had at some point operated a chainsaw before, so we made a point of instilling in them the use of correct PPE and the importance of safety. We also reaffirmed the need for maintaining the tools before teaching the cutting techniques.

As a whole the experience was excellent. The accommodation and food at the Slim Line barracks was superb, the students were all interested, grateful and ever willing to learn and the chi-zi was always hot and incredibly strong. A special mention must go to CP, a South African working for the UN who was never to busy to show us around and made us feel like part of the family, without who things would have been infinitely more difficult.

I found the time to be very rewarding and look forward to having further opportunities to use my skills in the name of Operation Florian in the future.

Jon Henderson