By U.S. Army Capt. Douglas Mize
2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The 2nd Brigade, 203rd “Thunder” Corps recently added a new dismounted IED, or improvised explosive device, clearance ability, a capability previously not held by the unit. The explosive ordinance disposal company recently completed its first ever explosive hazard reduction course without coalition support.
While Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) personnel already had the capability to reduce IEDs and obstacles, this was the first course of its kind to be offered to the engineer sappers in 2nd Brigade in order to improve their capability to conduct dismounted clearance operations.
The 23-day course, attended by 18 Afghan soldiers, included the identification of unexploded ordinance and IEDs, probing for mines, clearing booby traps, creating and emplacing explosive charges, and reducing enemy IEDs with explosives. Upon course completion, the students were certified in accordance with NATO standards. Venturing into the realm of Afghan led courses with Coalition Force standards is a giant step towards independence.
“This training is very important for the future of ANA success after our advisors depart,” says Afghan National Army Lt. Col. Dahd Muhammad, 4th Battalion commander. “I will do everything in my power to ensure the appropriate time and resources are set for this course.”
The 2nd brigade has three elements that ensure it can maneuver within Paktika. They are the Route Clearance Company that clears roads of IEDs, the EOD Company that partners with the RCC to reduce found IEDs, and the Engineer Company, that conducts dismounted counter IED operations and explosively destroys enemy caches.
Both the RCC and the EOD Company are rated as independent, effectively performing their role without advisers. The engineers received explosive training for their first time which will further enable them to complete their mission.
All 18 soldiers, including six engineer sappers completed the course Aug. 7, prior to the start of Eid al-Fitr , a three-day feast at the conclusion of Ramazan.
”The successful completion of this course by the engineer students will increase the Brigade’s mobility assets and decrease the sole reliance on ANA EOD to reduce unexploded ordinance and IEDs,” said U.S. Army Capt. Bryce Gatrell.
EOD instructors performed very engaging students to ensure their understanding of the material. Their diligence in ensuring understanding of the course material, led to all 18 soldiers successfully completed the training to standard.
“The interaction between student and instructor was phenomenal, enabling a greater grasp of understanding,” said U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Damian Johnson, engineer senior noncommissioned officer advisor.
With the successful conclusion of this training, the brigade is now able to provide freedom of movement anywhere in Paktika with all of its mobility assets. The addition of these specially qualified soldiers with their unique skill set ensure the brigade’s maneuver elements can quickly and safely maintain the momentum required to find, fix, and finish the enemy in any terrain.