TALUKAN, Afghanistan - There are no Hollywood actors, flashing lights or movie scripts for the explosive ordnance disposal technicians at Combat Outpost Talukan, in southern Afghanistan. Each time they receive a call, it’s the real deal.
The only way to be prepared for that call is to train for anything and everything, said Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandon Chism, an EOD technician with the 466th Air Expeditionary Squadron, serving with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division “Arctic Wolves.”
EOD technicians, in every branch of the U.S. military, receive more than a year’s worth of training at Eglin Air Force Base, in Florida. Their Afghan National Civil Order Police do not. “Originally, the ANCOP EOD guys were taught by the British techs that were out here. The same concepts are there, but the approach is different between us and the Brits, so we’ve had to teach them some different techniques,” said Chism, a Villa Rica, Ga., native.
To bridge the gap, Chism and his team continue to share their knowledge and experience with their ANCOP counterparts. The teams conduct partnered operations so the ANCOP technicians are able to gain real-life experience as well, Chism explained.
“We are working to get the guys validated as techs and as a team. We do that through weekly mentoring and training,” explained Air Force Staff Sgt. James “Fitz” Fitzgerald, EOD team leader, 466th AES.
Using a training lane— an area set up to resemble the terrain they would see outside of the COP— the team is able to plant mock improvised explosive devices and observe as ANCOP technicians detect, mark, extract or blow-in-place each explosive they discover. Explosives in the training lane include command wire IEDs, pressure plate IEDs and jugs of homemade explosives, all commonly found in and around the village of Talukan.
“Each week they show improvement,” said Chism. “They show great safety recognition. They are fully aware of all the hazards that would be around you typically in area here in Afghanistan. They follow procedure extremely well, and use good tool comprehension. [Today] they got rid of the IED in a fairly short amount of time, which is what we look for because we don’t want to be [in an area] for long.”
Not only are they learning and demonstrating technical proficiency during training, they are also gaining confidence.
“We work as a team. We have them train us [so we can] do the job by ourselves. I can do the job. I am ready always,” said ANCOP Sgt. Nasrullah “Nas” Mohammad Sharif, team leader and sergeant of the engineers.
Even with his new-found confidence in his team’s abilities, Nas knows there is still much to learn.
“In a second, IEDs can take the lives of civilians in the area. There are many different IEDs and we only know a few of them, but the Americans can find the others,” said Nas.
While the Afghans learn from the U.S., on occasion, the U.S. have been the students and the ANCOP the teachers.
“Having the training and being in the field, reacting to IEDs, you learn tricks here and there than can help you detect explosives or save you time. We share those with them, but I have also learned a few tricks from them, too,” Chism said.
The two EOD teams will continue to work together, conducting partnered missions and training on a weekly basis, in order to get the ANCOP fully validated and capable of being in the lead of securing their country, one IED at time.
For photos reference this story see the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division FLICKR page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/1-25_sbct/sets/72157627995063028/