homepage logo

Kearneysville company helping nix land-mines

By Staff | Dec 26, 2008

Bob Ebberson

By James P. Whipple

Chronicle staff

A recent United Nations report on the impact of armed conflict on children says land-mines represent “an insidious and persistent danger” to children affected by war.

In Jefferson County there is a company that has taken up the challenge of ridding countries of land-mines. The Schonstedt Instrument Company of Kearneysville started a program called the Schonstedt Humanitarian Demining Initiative, which to date has donated 277 Magnetic Locators at a cost of $233,583.

Schonstedt Instrument started in business in the aerospace industry producing magnetometers for over 400 satellites, including the Hubble telescope. Today, the company manufactures two types of instruments used to locate underground objects. The products that are manufactured here are the magnetic locators (used to find ferrous metals such as boundary markers, paved over valve and manhole covers, tanks of all sorts, land mines and unexploded ordnance) and pipe and cable locators.

The products are shipped to over 40 countries through out the world. The 32 employee-owned company also provides repair services, designs and develops new products, and manages communications with customers, dealers, and representatives.

Schonstedt Program Manager Bob Ebberson said the idea for donating equipment for finding land mines came from a meeting to come up with ways of doing business and at the same time finding a way of giving back.

A desire to do some good in the world, coupled with a need for increased visibility in a new market, gave birth to the Schonstedt Humanitarian Demining Initiative in January 2007. It was determined that a sale of a pipe and cable locator could financially support the donation of a magnetic locator and would yield a program that would be sustainable.

“We also decided that we would make the donation in the name of the purchaser and provide suitable recognition,” Ebberson said. The company needed a partner who could help prioritize world populations that were having problems with land-mines. They found the partner in the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) which to date has assisted in getting tools into the hands of UN demining teams in Laos, Somalia, Kenya, Tajikistan, Vietnam, Nepal, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mauritania and Croatia.

In September, the Schonstedt Instrument Company and its customers donated 30 de-mining instruments to the Mine Action Center for testing, development and training (HCR-CTRO) in Zagreb, Croatia. There they were tested accredited and integrated into a new training curriculum, with plans to further distribute them to UN Mine Action Programs throughout the region.

In October, graduates of the first course in “Training for UXO Detection and Removal, Level 1” returned to their home countries of Serbia, Monte Negro, Macedonia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Croatia, along with the units they trained on, to begin humanitarian demining operations.

“Schonstedt, in conjunction with the UN Mine Action Team is proud to be a part of this significant new development in UN-supported humanitarian action in southwest Europe,” Ebberson said.

The demining program has been recognized and praised around the world. The Schonstedt Humanitarian Demining Program has been recognized by the United State State Department for its humanitarian efforts. West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin also recognized Schonstedt Instrument Company as one of West Virginia’s best company’s. Ebberson thinks that the company is just one of many that make the program work.

“We feel heartened that the program is having a positive effect in the world, but it’s important to remember that it is our customers, along with groups such as clubs, associations, churches – and even individuals – that are making the contributions,” he said. “We’re simply matching them. The credit really belongs to those who take that first step.”