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 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 Geneva, Switzerland. Prior to that he worked for the United Nations for 10 years – at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York from1998 to 2002, and on UN field assignments in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Laos from 1991 to 1998. In recognition of his humanitarian work Ian was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Queens’ Birthday list of June 2010.Before joining the United Nations, Ian served as an engineer officer in the Australian Army for 22 years. During his military career, Ian held a variety of command, training and headquarters jobs. His final posting was as Commanding Officer of the Australian Army Training Team in Pakistan where he held national command responsibilities, and doubled in a United Nations appointment. For this work he was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross (CSC) in the 1993 Australia Day Honours list. Ian served in most states of Australia, as well as Papua New Guinea, the USA, Canada and Pakistan. Ian holds a Masters in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Civil Engineering. He is a graduate of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, and the Army Command and Staff College.