Saturday, September 19, 2009
Geoff Meade, Defence correspondent
The Army has overhauled its training in the hope it can more than halve the Afghanistan death rate, Sky News has learned.
Military drivers, suppliers and even chefs are being trained to spot deadly explosives as figures show that eight out of ten deaths are down to bombs.
Despite the constant political argument over armoured vehicles, the Army believes more lives would be saved from better training than from a few more Viking vehicles.
It has redrawn the syllabus for recruits' basic training to make spotting and avoiding Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) the priority.
Senior officers now claim that Britain's management of bomb threats is among the best in the world, with far more devices discovered than are actually detonated.
Counter Measures Specialist Colonel Christopher Clayden said troops are being trained to spot the bombs so that devices can be made safe.
"Ideally we need to get at the bombers, we need to get left of the bang, as we say, to prevent them being put there in the first place.
"But once they are placed it isn't too late. We have the ability to protect and the drills and skills to minimise the casualties."
Intelligence reports on bombs defused intact are incorporated into lectures within days so that trainees get the latest information.
Trainees also hear from soldiers who have lived through such attacks, like ten-year veteran Corporal Mohsin Shah who had a narrow escape when a vehicle in front struck an anti-tank mine.
"With an IED threat you don't know where it's coming from. It's an invisible threat. Every step you take, you worry about it.
"You don't know what's going to happen in the next couple of seconds or the next moment.
"So it is more frightful dealing with IEDs rather than a direct contact with the enemy."
The Army believes that an increase in armoured vehicles would save 30% more lives, but hope this new form of training could save double that percentage.