Friday, September 18, 2009

Sappers complete IED training for Afghanistan deployment

Ahead of their deployment to Afghanistan next month, a squadron of sappers from 33 Engineer Regiment have completed their final stage of training with deadly live explosives and munitions.

Following a rigorous six-month package of training, 100 members of 49 Field Squadron (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) are deploying in October as part of 11 Light Brigade.

49 Fd Sqn (EOD) underwent training with live explosives and munitions at the MOD Shoeburyness test and evaluation range in Essex last week as part of a package designed to test their skills when dealing with explosives and improvised explosive devices to the limit before their deployment.

The three-day training event at Shoeburyness allowed the Sappers to get up close to live munitions, handle live explosives and carry out a number of controlled explosions in preparation for the real thing.

Captain Gareth Bateman, Second-in-Command of 49 Fd Sqn (EOD), will be based in Camp Bastion, the largest British base in Helmand, as he oversees the work of his men on operations. He said:

"The training here at Shoeburyness has been the final step of six months of preparations, making sure that the training is fresh in the minds of us all before we get out there so we can do the best job possible.

"We've been able to get hands-on with a range of munitions and have been able to test the full range of techniques, including some of the more scientific methods through to the big controlled explosions."

Afghanistan has suffered conflict for decades and there are estimated to be many thousands of unexploded devices littering the countryside, from huge anti-tank mines to rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.

Not only do theses devices pose a deadly threat to Afghan civilians and coalition forces, but the Taliban have been able to use them to build the deadly improvised explosive devices (IEDs) which are increasingly taking their toll on the coalition, Afghan forces and Afghan civilians.

49 Fd Sqn (EOD) will focus on removing the threat that discarded devices pose, as well as assisting in dealing with the IEDs deployed by the insurgents:

"We are really looking forward to this tour," said Captain Bateman. "Many of us have already been to Iraq or Afghanistan before so we have a level of experience, but there are some for whom this will be the first time away. We are well prepared for the job at hand."

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