Story and photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Gino Flores
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – The explosive hazard reduction course at Joint Sustainment Academy Southwest, here, allows coalition forces instructors teach members of the Afghan National Security Forces the fundamentals of identifying and countering improvised explosive devices.
The course prepares members of the Afghan National Army, uniformed police and border police to operate in a partnership role with coalition forces when IEDs are encountered, the basics of insurgent IED tactics and how to handle and eliminate unexploded ordinance and munitions.
The ANSF students also earn to locate, identify and disarm victim operated IEDs such as pressure plate and trip wires devices. Another key focus of the course is to teach ANSF personnel to perform searches alongside coalition units.
“We teach them how to spot the IEDs, place a charge next to it and then how to blow them up,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Ronald Ameika, an explosive ordnance disposal tech and instructor at JSAS.
Course trainees are constantly reminded to multitask, listening for the audible alarm from the Vallon metal detector while always scanning the surface of the earth in front of them for signs of planted IEDs.
“Students need to be well rounded and familiar with all field equipment, explosives and techniques used, “said Ameika, a native of Groton, Conn.
“Countering IEDs and dealing with these devices is a process that goes through stages,” said British Royal Engineer Lance Cpl. Paul Dwayne, an instructor for the EHR course at JSAS. “At the [moment] we concentrate on getting [students] the very basics so that they can work with a mentor over a period of time, getting up to scratch, to the level we want them at, so we can go out in small teams and carry out the drills,” added Dwayne, from Kettering, England.
During the course, the students train daily, mastering their search procedures and rotating positions on the search party.
Near the end of the course, students undergo a drill using sophisticated technology to measure their effectiveness.
A team of students executes the side-to-side sweep of a lane with a metal detector. The sweep pattern of each student using the detector is recorded and then displayed as a computer image on a monitor.
“This serves as a great debriefing tool that makes students fully aware of errors committed during the exercises and corrective measures needed to successfully complete the course prior to graduation,” said Ameika.
On the final day of the field exercise, students typically show a great measure of improvement, he added.
“By the end of the fourth week, they know what they are doing,” said Ameika.
Course graduates who show potential and possess adequate math and reading skills can also be recommended to continue to an advanced EOD course.
Many ANSF troops attending the EHR course recognize the potential to teach others and the opportunity to serve the people of Afghanistan.
“In Afghanistan there are many IEDs,” said Staff Sgt. Mohibullah Hamidi of the 215th Corps ANA. “What I learn here in this course, I will use in the future to help the people of Afghanistan. I plan to become an expert and teach others how to counter the IED threat.”