Estonian troops in Afghanistan clear IEDs, save Afghan lives

Posted: March 15, 2012 in Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police, Afghan Security, Development, Education, Estonia, Estonian, Helmand province, Photos

Story by Regional Command Southwest Team

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — Roadside bombs pose a serious threat to the Afghan people as well as to the Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces. Every disposed IED means saved lives.

The eleventh rotation of Estonian troops, serving with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, made an all-time best per rotation when they cleared 106 improvised explosive devices last year. However, the current, twelfth rotation, is half-way through their tour of duty and has already disposed of 68 IEDs.

Success with clearing a total of nearly 200 IEDs in nine months requires cooperation between the Estonian Improvised Explosive Device Disposal Team and the Estonian combat engineers.

When a combat engineer’s ground radar picks up a signal, he carefully inspects the site and determines the presence of the IED. If an IED is present, the standard operating procedure requires that the disposal experts are called and either remove the IED or dispose of it on site.

Circumstances do occur where the combat engineer must dispose of the explosive device. For example, if it is impossible to cordon off the site for the necessary period of time, the combat engineer, who is also trained to clear IEDs, will do it.

Estonian combat engineers say they have to be bold enough to be on point and have the knowledge to find an IED.

“[A] cool temper, good knowledge, being a team player and a natural interest in different technical solutions and different explosive devices,” said the senior non-commissioned officer of the Estonian IEDDT, Master Sgt. Eero Naudi, describing the qualities each of his team members is required to have.

Naudi said that serving as an IED disposal expert requires constant training. “You have to be interested in the job you are doing and you have to keep yourself up-to-date, otherwise it will be really difficult to be a successful disposal expert,” he said.

The coalition partners are also important to Estonian bomb disposal experts when it comes to training. The Estonian IEDDT specialists are trained in Estonia and in the United Kingdom, so their instruction and understanding is on par with their British brothers in arms.

The current Improvised Explosive Device Disposal Team started its service in Helmand in November 2011. The combat engineers have served with the infantry company since 2007. Estonian soldiers have served in Afghanistan since 2003 and in the Helmand province since 2006.

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