Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bucket Protection: A Novel Way to Avoid IEDs

A four man RAF Firefighting team were commissioned by Fire Support Company, 1 Royal Welch to relieve flooding on Route Dorset, a major road near Loy Doreh, that intersects the Nad-Ali area of Central Helmand. The Royal Welch had been trying to clear the road for 23 days so that local Afghans could have freedom to move to schools and bazaars in the area.

However, farmers had dammed up wadi’s (drainage ditches) to irrigate fields but had caused flooding of the road too. Additionally, craters had been created in the road caused by an IED, triggered by a US Thor vehicle which had killed one US soldier. This had left large pools of stagnant water one metre deep in places.

Not sure if IEDs were lurking beneath the water, 28 Engineering Support Group and RAF Firefighters cobbled a plan to use a reinforced digger to use as a platform for a fireman to stand in whilst they gingerly placed their hoses into the pool to suck away excess water. This was treacherous work, given that a wrongly placed hose might detonate a pressure plate.

It was also unpleasant work given firefighters Corporal Mike Broadley and Corporal Jim McInally were working all day in 35 degree heat in full body armour breathing in generator fumes in the bucket.

At one point Mike came under fire whilst in the bucket, luckily with rounds hitting the digger windscreen and not him.

“It was a bit hairy”, said Mike, “given that the bucket was not armoured”.

However, the firemen resolutely carried on, draining 100,000 litres of water in total. This then allowed the Counter IED team to check the muddied road and they found 2 IEDs lurking in the sludge.

It was a real team effort between the Royal Welch Fire Support Team who provided outstanding Force Protection....

The engineers who tested and adjusted the digger in line with the generator, hose and fireman. They kept the dodgy generator going (even stripping it to back to basics at one point)....

The brave C-IED team who searched in squelching, difficult conditions....

And of course the firemen who could have sucked up an IED at any time. However, it was the 4 firemen who after 7 days working with the Army were left with the most lasting impression.

Two of the team were held in reserve, Senior Aircraftsmen Lee Stevens and Mark Consterdine; but used for sentry duties to guard the patrol base and compounds.

“Working so closely with the Army has been great. These boys are the ones that risk their lives day in, day out and live out in basic conditions. It has been a real eye-opener.

“1 Royal Welch shook our hands to thank us, but we felt very humbled, especially given what these fellas do”, said Jim, “I’m just really pleased we played our part”.


  1. Good job lads but is this really the best the army can do ?
    Standing in an unarmoured bucket breathing diesel fumes and getting shot at...

  2. I am trying to imagine what all that mud and muck smelled like, too. I'm wondering if the diesel fumes might not have been better (though poisonous).

    Interesting story, great pictures. This is a very interesting blog, and I mentioned it in a recent post. Now my reader (I actually have one) knows about you folks, too.

  3. This is a great article. This is the kind of stuff my husband does. IED Hunters. These brave men are something else and I'm proud of them for taking the time and risk to find the explosives. If they hadn't, a civilian, or more likely, a child, would have. This is exactly the kind of thing the Army is doing out there. A lot of this stuff gets invented as they go. New technology, new weapons, brand new situations. It's just guys using what they have and the skills they've learned, to do the best they can to make the country safe for the civilians out there. Any big wigs making all the rules and decisions is hardly versed or experienced in the type of tasks our young soldiers face.

  4. This was 'team work' at its best - and like all our troops - work as one - looking out for each other. Sad to read that a US soldier lost his life (may he R.I.P). I wish I could be as magnanimous as above (12.30 pm)- but whilst I read about all the good 'the troops are doing' or trying to do - WHAT I AM REALLY READING is our troops are being shot at, injured or killed whilst trying to make this country into something it hasnt been for many, many years. As always, very Proud of our troops.

  5. This was Team Work at its best: Sad to hear that a US soldier lost his life (may he R.I.P) I wish I could be a magnanimous as above (12:30 pm) but whilst she read all the good things the troops are doing/trying to do - I read that our troops are being shot at, injured and killed by trying to help this country have things that it has not had for many, many years, if ever. Maybe I am being extremely selfish, but I can't help the way I feel - but one thing for sure I AM VERY PROUD OF OUR TROOPS - may God Bless and Look After You ALL. X

  6. FS RAF FIRE SERVICEMarch 28, 2010 at 1:43 AM

    Great job lads well done. Glad to see you got the equipment you needed in the end and that you were able to put it to good use.

  7. I can't belive what these lads had endured over the last week clearing this road, it makes me especially proud to be the brother of one of the fire crew performing this task. Every day we think about him and his team and pray that they are safe. I would like to thank the fire support team for keeping the crew safe whilst they cleared the flooded road. You are all very brave men & Women who deserve the best equipment.