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News | Oct. 22, 2010

Afghan soldiers train to defeat unseen killer

By Cpl. Brian Gabriel Jr. , Regional Command Southwest


An Afghan National Army soldier watches a classmate examine the wiring of an improvised explosive device replica during the Explosive Hazard Reduction Course Oct. 21, 2010. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Brian Gabriel Jr.)

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan (Oct. 22, 2010) — Afghan soldiers are learning to deter the threat of Afghanistan’s most deadly and often unseen killer.

Afghan soldiers continue to improve their overall knowledge of counter-improvised explosive device detection techniques in classes at the Explosive Hazard Reduction Course, at the Joint Security Academy Southwest here. A mix of coalition force instructors, all possessing years of counter-IED experience in various battle spaces, teaches the month-long course.

“Today they’re learning about the different types of IEDs,” said 1st Lt. Colin R. Hartman, training team assistant officer-in-charge from Task Force Paladin, United States Forces Afghanistan. “We’re really just going over the basics right now— [IED] components, how they work, and how they are a threat to them.”

Hartman, of St. Paul, Minn., added that the course begins with classroom training on IED identification, using detection techniques like minesweepers, and basic knowledge on conventional military munitions. The students eventually put all their classroom training to use during later practical application exercises.

“They learn search techniques and, at the end, they actually put them all together to do tasks and scenarios where they’ll run problems as teams and they’ll find and destroy IEDs,” Hartman said.

Counter-IED training is essential in a battlefield environment where IEDs are a major threat to civilians and troops. According to a July 2010 report from the Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Organization, more than 1,000 IED-related incidents occurred between March and May of 2010.

“Because IEDs are the main threat in theater, they’re going to be dealing with IEDs no matter if we teach them how to deal with them safely or not,” Hartman said. “That fact alone means that knowing how to deal with them safely increases their survivability by a lot and the success of the units in theater, especially this [area of operations].”

Noor Muhammed, one of the soldiers enrolled in the course, returned to Afghanistan after living abroad for over 20 years, in order to protect his homeland. He feels that mastering counter-IED tactics will allow him and his fellow soldiers to continue to successfully operating in Afghanistan.

“It is very important to our people and our national army to learn about IEDs,” Muhammed said. “There are a lot of IEDs planted everywhere in Afghanistan—we will have to deal with them everywhere we work. We need to learn as much as we can from this class and begin clearing Afghanistan of IEDs as soon as possible.”

Soldiers like Muhammed and his classmates, trained in recognizing and mitigating IED threats, are necessary for the future success of the ANA and the continued development of Afghanistan in general, according to the instructors.

“It’s really an essential step for them gaining independence, in terms of dealing with the IED threat,” said Hartman. “If you look at what’s going in theater right now, American [explosive ordinance disposal] is sort of overwhelmed with having to deal with every threat. This gives them their own organic counter-IED capability which will be an essential development in them eventually gaining independence as an operating force in theater.”