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Stepping Into a Minefield

A life dedicated to landmine clearance around the world

Authors: Ian Mansfield
Rated 5.00 out of 5 based on 7 customer ratings
(7 customer reviews)
01/Oct/2015
military; landmines
340
Paperbac
155mm x 230mm
9781925275520
$29.99

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Through his personal bravery and commitment to the worthy cause of ridding the world of the scourge of mines he has helped save the lives of thousands of men women and children. His book is a great read. It tells the story of a man on a mission to do something good in the world. – Lieutenant General (Retired) Peter Leahy AC. – Chief of the Australian Army (2002 – 2008)

This impressive book from a man who was for decades engaged in the fight against the disastrous weapon of landmines….outlines the credibility of Ian Mansfield in saving lives and reducing the suffering of landmine victims, appreciated by mine affected countries and by donors. – Dr Cornelio Sommaruga. – President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (1987 – 1999)

An excellent insight into Ian Mansfield and his family’s experiences living in war-torn countries, and the technical side of his work managing large scale mine clearance programmes. Ian Mansfield is an outstanding Australian who has made a substantial contribution in the international humanitarian arena. – Prince Mired bin Raad of Jordan. – Special Envoy for the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention

Ian Mansfield was serving in the Australian Army when he was selected to command a team of Australian combat engineers to go to Pakistan to train Afghan refugees in mine-clearance procedures. With millions of refugees expected to return to Afghanistan, the United Nations saw a humanitarian crisis looming and requested help from Western countries to tackle the landmine problem. In September 1991, Ian, along with his wife and two young children, left Australia on a one-year assignment … and didn’t return home for 20 years.

This highly personal account recalls Ian’s pioneering efforts to set up a civilian program in Afghanistan to clear landmines for humanitarian purposes, and then his decision to leave the Australian Army and join the United Nations. He continued to work in the mine-action sector, setting up programs in Laos and Bosnia, and then working at the policy level at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Stepping into a Minefield highlights the dangers and the tragedies involved in landmine clearance, but also reveals the great humanity, dedication and humour of the thousands of brave men and women clearing landmines today. It also outlines the political, cultural and security ‘minefields’ that Ian had to navigate along the way, which were often more difficult to deal with than the real minefields.

Ian Mansfield

Ian Mansfield

Ian Mansfield is a consultant specializing in humanitarian assistance and post conflict activities, particularly in the field of landmine action. He worked overseas for 20 years but since mid-2011 he has been based in Mooloolaba, Queensland. For nine years Ian was the Deputy Director of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) based in […]

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7 reviews for Stepping Into a Minefield

  1. Rated 5 out of 5

    The book is just marvellous, compelling and informative. I very much like the way Ian has weaved the geopolitics, family life, tragic events and humorous ones together. He has had some amazing experiences. A foreword from Jody Williams is equally impressive.

  2. Rated 5 out of 5

    I had the honour to serve with Ian Mansfield in 1992 as he began his second career in the business of ridding the world of land mines. I suspect at the time he did not realise how the next 20 years of his life would be driven by this noble quest. Stepping into a Minefield is a fascinating account of that journey. Mansfield was serving in the Australian Army when he was selected to command a team of Australian combat engineers to go to Pakistan to train Afghan refugees in mine-clearance procedures. With millions of refugees expected to return to Afghanistan, the United Nations (UN) saw a humanitarian crisis looming and requested help from Western countries to tackle the landmine problem. In September 1991, Mansfield, along with his wife and two young children, left Australia on a one-year assignment … and did not return home for 20 years. Stepping into a Minefield is a highly personal account recalling Mansfield’s pioneering efforts to set up a civilian programme to clear landmines in Afghanistan and later in Laos and Bosnia. The book highlights the dangers and the tragedies in landmine clearance, but also reveals the great humanity, dedication and humour of the thousands of brave men and women clearing landmines today. It also outlines the political, cultural and security ‘minefields’ that Ian had to navigate along the way, which were often more difficult to deal with than the real minefields. Landmines are cowardly weapons. They are designed to kill and maim indiscriminately, not distinguishing between enemy combatants and young children. They do not demand that the perpetrators of violence witness the death and destruction they inflict. As Mansfield points out: One of the perverse aspects of anti-personnel landmines is that they are generally designed to maim rather than kill. In a battlefield situation, a soldier who steps on a mine will be screaming in agony, which strikes fear and caution in his comrades and requires a medic to treat the wounded person and then a number of stretcher bearers to evacuate the soldier. Mansfield’s book reminds us that the landmine story is one of hope and revival. Midway through the book, he describes an experience he had in Kandahar two decades ago. He writes: An old man came up to us holding a bunch of flowers. He asked to speak to me through the interpreter. He said that he was extremely grateful that we had cleared his farming land. He said that he could now die in peace, knowing that his family had a future. He gave me the bunch of flowers which he had grown on his land, and then got down on his knees and kissed my hand. The fight to clear and ban the use of landmines continues in earnest. Nearly two decades after its entry into force, the United States and a number of other world powers have yet to accede to the Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel landmines. Millions of land mines remain hidden around the world waiting to main and kill; or hopefully to be cleared safely. Mansfield served as an engineer officer in the Australian Army for 22 years before starting work with the UN for 10 years with field assignments in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Laos from 1991 to 1998 and then at the UN Headquarters in New York from1998 to 2002. Mansfield then served for nine years as the Deputy Director of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining based in Geneva, Switzerland. In recognition of his humanitarian work Mansfield was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2010. Since 2011, Mansfield has been a private consultant specializing in humanitarian assistance and post conflict activities, particularly in the field of landmine action. Stepping into a Minefield includes a large number of colour and black-and-white photos and several maps; together with several useful background boxes explaining both how land mines function and certain mine clearance techniques. There is a list of acronyms and an index. Stepping into a Minefield is a unique story of how one Australian has made a real difference in the world and is certainly worth reading. Marcus Fielding

  3. Rated 5 out of 5

    “Stepping Into a Minefield” Book Launch | Donald Steinberg, President and CEO of World Learning | Washington, D.C. It is a great privilege to speak at this launch of the book, Stepping into a Minefield by Ian Mansfield, at the Embassy of Switzerland today. We use the word hero too loosely these days. Throw a touchdown in the last two minutes of a football game, and you’re a hero. Destroy enough zombies in a video game and a message pops up on the screen – Good going, hero! We’ve abused the word so badly that it’s not enough to say someone is a hero anymore – you have to say he or she is a super-hero. Reading Ian Mansfield book, Stepping into a Minefield, reminds us what a real hero is. Heroes are ordinary people who take on extraordinary challenges that impact our world, using their full talents with little regard for self-advancement, recognition, and even personal safety. Early in the book, we learn that on his first trip into Afghanistan, even before he had stepped into his first minefield, Ian’s caravan had to take cover from an aerial bombing of a MiG fighter jet from the Afghan Government, the very government he was there to assist. Soon thereafter, he raced to the site of a landmine accident, where anti-tank mines ended the lives of three of his courageous colleagues. A lesser person would have would have called it quits right then. Stepping in a Minefield tells us about Ian’s life journey from the small mining town of Ararat in southeast Australia to the minefields in Afghanistan, Laos and Bosnia, and finally to the corridors of power in New York and Geneva. I don’t believe it’s stretching the metaphor too far to remind you that Ararat in Turkey was the spot where, according to Judeo-Christian belief, Noah’s Ark landed to begin a new era of hope and peace following destruction. Similarly, Ian’s work for a quarter of a century has been to help people recover after devastating conflict and rebuild lives of hope and peace. Long before the movement to ban landmines reach its apex with the Ottawa Treaty and the Nobel Peace Prize, Ian reminds us, heroes like Rae McGrath, Bob Eaton, Martin Barber, J.J. van der Merwe, and Sayeed Aqa were literally toiling in the fields to address the horror of landmines. We also hear of the tremendous sacrifices of Ian’s courageous wife, Margaret, and his children, Zoe and Charles. Landmines are cowardly weapons. They are designed to kill and maim indiscriminately, not distinguishing between enemy combatants and young children. They don’t demand that the perpetrators of violence witness the death and destruction they inflict. As Ian points out, One of the perverse aspects of anti-personnel landmines is that they are generally designed to maim rather than kill. In a battlefield situation, a soldier who steps on a mine will be screaming in agony, which strikes fear and caution in his comrades and requires a medic to treat the wounded person and then a number of stretcher bearers to evacuate the soldier. My first direct experience with landmines came in 1994. I had been asked by President Clinton to serve as Ambassador to Angola, a country emerging from 25 years of civil war that had cost a half million lives, driven three million people from their homes, and reportedly left a legacy of a million landmines planted in the soil. Before taking the position, I travelled to Angola to witness the situation, which mirrored the tragic environment Ian faced at the same time in Afghanistan. I will always remember walking into a makeshift hospital near a refugee camp in rural Angola, going around a corner, and seeing a woman on an operating table who was giving birth and having her leg amputated at the same time. As I quickly withdrew, I asked our guide what had happened. She said that the pregnant woman had been living in the refugee camp and knew that the gruel she was being fed wasn’t providing enough nourishment for her unborn child. So even though she had been told that the nearby fields were mined, she went into a mango grove to pick some fruit, and stepped on a landmine. The accident stimulated premature labor. As we walked away from the hospital, the guide said that it was unlikely that either she or the baby would survive. That experience started me on my own anti-landmine journey, both for four years in Angola and for three years thereafter as the President’s Special Representative for Global Humanitarian Demining. And it led me to the honor of working with Ian Mansfield. Throughout my experience with him, Ian was always one step ahead of the rest of us – looking for innovative and groundbreaking methods to, as he puts it, not only do the job right, but do the right job. This led to greater landmine surveys to prioritize demining efforts, expanded use of dog mine detection, new mine awareness programs, and projects to engage the public in demining like the Adopt-a-Minefield program. I’m proud to say that I myself adopted a minefield in Mozambique on behalf of my parents in 1999, and when the field was cleared, 10,000 local residents could return to their village and begin their new lives. It is fitting, then, that just last month, two decades after the end of Mozambique’s civil war, the government of Mozambique and the international community declared the country to be mine-free. Ian’s book reminds us that the landmine story is one of hope and revival. Midway through the book, he describes an experience he had in Kandahar two decades ago. He writes: An old man came up to us holding a bunch of flowers. He asked to speak to me through the interpreter he said that he was extremely grateful that we had cleared his farming land. He said that he could now die in peace, knowing that his family had a future. He gave me the bunch of flowers which he had grown on his land, and then got down on his knees and kissed my hand. It is also befitting of Ian’s modesty that he mentions this story long before we learn that he was awarded Australia’s highest civilian honor – Member of the Order of Australia – in 2010 for his service to international humanitarian aid through the establishment of global landmine removal, safety and training programs. Is our work done in the fight against landmines? Hardly. For one thing, nearly two decades after its entry into force, the United States and a number of other world powers have yet to accede to the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines. Incidentally, I’m very proud that one of the leaders of the fight against landmines, Jody Williams, attended World Learning’s master’s program, learning skills she later applied in the building support for the campaign to ban landmines. I know all the arguments American officials use against the Ottawa Treaty. I know about self-destructing landmines and anti-handling devices and the defense of South Korea, but I also know the importance of being on the right side of history. So I have one request. President Obama, before you leave office 16 months from now, sign the treaty. One final thought. Stepping into a Minefield shows the impact that a single good and talented person, working in partnership with others, can have in addressing huge global challenges. I am reminded of my favorite quote, from Robert F. Kennedy’s speech in apartheid South Africa forty years ago. Kennedy said: It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he or she sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. If we are all ripples of hope, it is my honor to now introduce a tsunami in the fight against landmines, Ian Mansfield. Thank you. http://www.worldlearning.org/our-impact/press-room/speeches/stepping-into-a-minefield-book-launch/

  4. Rated 5 out of 5

    When Ian Mansfield was studying at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, 45 years ago, he regarded landmines as just another piece of army kit. “They were a legitimate weapon of war, like a rifle or pistol; I had no moral objection to them,” he said. That all changed when, in 1991, he was sent to Afghanistan to help clean up after the decade-long war between the Soviet Union and the mujahideen. “I was exposed to the [human] impact of landmines for the first time,” Mansfield said. “[There were] people whose limbs had been blown off, leaving them to die in areas with no medical facilities; children were being killed needlessly “I realised these were weapons that continued to kill and maim long after the wars they had been used in were officially over.” FULL STORY here http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/landmine-campaigner-ian-mansfield-began-his-journey-towards-peace-in-canberra-20151029-gkm6q9

  5. Rated 5 out of 5

    A former Geelong boy tells of a career that was always just one step from disaster THE first landmine accident I ever came across was also the worst I ever experienced. The former Geelong local, who lived in Newtown from 1965 to 1970 and attended Belmont High, was quickly drawn to the immediate and tangible results his work provided. Thousands of Afghan men were hired, given training, a salary, and a purpose. Everyday risks inherent in otherwise mundane tasks like travelling for water, firewood and food were, piece by piece, eradicated using procedures that significantly decreased the hazards of de-mining. Perhaps most importantly, they didn’t have a rifle in their hands, Mr Mansfield says. It was as much as anything a peace-building activity. There were refugees wanting to return home and seeing families being able to move into a house safely brought instant gratification. I remember an old bloke who came up to me holding a bunch of flowers. He spoke to me through the interpreter, saying how grateful he was to us for clearing his farming land, and then he got down on his hands and knees and kissed my hand. He said he could die peacefully because his family now had a future. FULL STORY here http://geelongadvertiser.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx?noredirect=true

  6. Rated 5 out of 5

    Ian Mansfield has seen a lot of the world and his family has travelled with him. He served 20 years in the Australian Army and 20 years working for the United Nations He was in New York City on September 11 and witnessed the attacks on the World Trade Centres from his office. His new book is titled “Stepping into a Minefield” and he shared some of those stories with John Caruso. LISTEN to Ian’s interview here – https://soundcloud.com/abc-sunshine-coast/ian-mansfield-stepping-into-a-minefield

  7. Rated 5 out of 5

    Imagine being in Afghanistan before the Taliban came on the scene when warlords ruled the country. You’re in a UN car travelling on a near empty road when you come across a roadblock. A teenage boy and his father point a gun to your head. That’s what happened to Ian Mansfield – a man who has dedicated his life to removing landmines from some of the world’s most dangerous places. He’s written a book about his experiences and why he took his family with him on the challenging journey. The book is called Stepping Into A Minefield LISTEN to Ian as he speaks with Patricia Karvelas on ABC Radio National’s Drawing Room http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/drawingroom/landmines/6854872

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