Saturday, February 14, 2009

'Bomb disposal is very like risk management'

The Afghan desert is a long way from Cyril Sweett’s London office, but for Captain Louise Greenhalgh it’s just another day staying one step ahead of local hazards.

The manoeuvre was hailed as one of the biggest successes of modern military history and one of the most dangerous missions since the Second World War.

In late August 2008, a 22-tonne turbine bound for the Kajaki hydroelectric dam in Afghanistan’s Helmand province was driven by Nato forces along a 100-mile secret route. It involved crossing the hostile Afghan desert in the heart of Taliban territory.

Before the convoy could advance, a small team of bomb disposal officers worked to secure the path. Among them was 28-year-old Captain Louise Greenhalgh, a soldier halfway through a six-month deployment abroad and 3,000 miles away from her other place of work, the second floor of consultant Cyril Sweett’s London office.

This construction risk manager is also a 10-year member of the Territorial Army, and the first female bomb disposal officer to serve in Helmand.

“We had just got back from R&R – our two-week break in the middle of our tour – and there was a request that they needed us up at Kajaki,” she says, now safely back in the UK. “It was a matter of ‘right, get your stuff together and get going’. We spent 10 days preparing and patrolling the route.”

It is hard to reconcile the image of a frontline soldier in body armour with the suited consultant at London’s Grays Inn Road. But Greenhalgh believes the two roles have more in common than people think. “Bomb disposal is very like risk management. There’s problem solving, planning and organisation. You have to stay calm, try and limit the possibility of explosion and lower the impact if there is one.”

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1 comment:

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