Afghan Forces graduate from IED-Defeat/EOD training

ISAF Regional Command North
Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Richard Wolff

Date: 12.15.2011
Posted: 12.19.2011 08:44
News ID: 81567

CAMP MIKE SPANN, MAZAR-E SHARIF, Balkh province, Afghanistan – Improvised Explosive Devices are a constant threat in Afghanistan and it takes skilled Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams to combat them. As International Security Assistance Force troops begin to make plans to depart the country, many by 2014, Afghan forces are increasingly taking on the responsibility to become EOD technicians and learning how to defeat the IED threat.

Fifteen Afghan National Security Force members graduated from the Afghan National Army Engineer School Mazar-e Sharif, Dec. 15 during a ceremony held at their compound near Camp Mike Spann in northern Afghanistan. This was the largest class to graduate since the school opened with many more expected to complete training in the coming months.

Conducted by Combined Joint Task Force Paladin, the IEDD/EOD Team Validation Program provides a holistic four-phase approach that assesses, trains, mentors and validates ANSF teams for independent operations. The school near Mazar-e Sharif is the only one in Afghanistan conducting this type of training. Students travel from all over the country to learn and take back with them the necessary tools to keep their area of operations safe.

The training consists of a 13-week EOD Basic course in which students learn the fundamentals of how to locate, identify, and disarm munitions. The main objective of the course deals with reducing any threat to person and property when they come into contact with a suspected explosive device. Afterward, they are eligible to take a 9-week IED-Defeat course that involves classroom instruction and practical exercises to combat IED threats. Many of the instructors are former military EOD technicians who know the dangers these trainees will eventually face in Afghanistan.

The distinguished honor graduate from the class, Afghan Army Lt. Hamidullah, said this was something he has strived for ever since joining the Army, “I selected to attend EOD school. I see on the news IED bombs going off and I have to serve my county. I have to save my people [from this threat].”

Hamidullah was presented with a multi-tool, a hand-held instrument that is commonly used by EOD Technicians, as a gift from the instructors for his success in the training. He and his fellow graduates are now also eligible to wear the EOD patch and warfare insignia.

Ray Lunbeck, a retired Air Force EOD Technician who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom and now is the Senior EOD instructor at the Engineer School said he felt like he could make a difference by coming here and training the Afghan forces.

“They are eager to learn,” said Lunbeck. “You can tell from their expressions that they are excited to have completed the course.”

Lunbeck began teaching Afghan forces about one year ago and considers the program a success in building a safe foundation for Afghanistan’s future.

Engineer School Commander, Afghan Army Col. Ahmadoullah, applauded the recent graduates at their graduation ceremony and said, “You should be very proud because you are saving lives and eventually will help bring peace to our country.”

In addition to the 15 new EOD Operators, 4 more soldiers qualified as EOD Operator Assistants, the step just below an Operator. The Operator graduates now take the knowledge learned and head back to their units to mentor alongside EOD contractors or Coalition Force EOD units. After 6 months of field work, the mentors validate their proficiency in real-world situations. Once validated, they then join an Afghan EOD team similar to the ones coalition forces are using now.

There are four EOD levels for Team Member certification and two levels for IEDD. Each individual student is evaluated in 26 different areas to ensure they are proficient enough to accomplish the task in real-world situations. Some of the training modules include working around minefields and Unexploded Ordnance, how to safely cordon a hazardous site, driving EOD robots, properly donning bomb suits, vehicle clearance and search, hook and line maneuvers, and forensics and evidence collection. Further classes in the principles of IED detection and defeat are explained in a classroom and then graded based on field exercises.

With additional training, the graduates can eventually become an EOD Team Leader who plans and controls EOD missions in Afghanistan. The graduates feel confident taking on this difficult and often dangerous job, but they realize it is important and essential to securing the safety of Afghanistan and its people.