Afghan National Army Sgt. Nizamuddin Azizi, explosive ordnance disposal technician, Route Clearance Tolay, 4th Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps, searches for an improvised explosive device in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Aug. 1, 2012 (Photo by Cpl. Kenneth Jasik)
FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELERAM II, Afghanistan (August 8, 2012) — The deadliest threat to forces operating in Afghanistan is improvised explosive devices, and Afghan National Army soldiers operating in Deleram District have been able to minimize the damage they cause with their explosive ordnance disposal teams.
The ANA’s 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps, based in Deleram includes several explosive ordnance disposal teams. Those teams have successfully disarmed more than 30 IEDs in the past month, which is something they can be proud of, said Gunnery Sgt. Mario L. Virgen, Regimental Combat Team 6, 4th Kandak advisor team staff noncommissioned officer in charge.
The EOD technicians with Route Clearance Tolay, 4th Kandak, act as a quick-reaction force whenever an IED is found.
“Whenever someone reports an IED, it’s my job to go out there and disarm it,” said Sgt. Nizamuddin Azizi, an ANA EOD technician. “I do it to prevent the casualties of my friends in the ANA and civilian causalities. I do it for the safety of all people of Afghanistan.”
The Afghan EOD technicians are extensively trained in their craft. Their Marine advisors’ role has shifted from mentoring and training to occasionally going on missions with them to observe their progress.
Now that most coalition forces have left the area, the Afghan National Army has been operating almost independently in Deleram District and parts of Nimruz province. The only Marine presence is the ANA advisors.
The advisors said they are very confident in the ANA’s ordnance disposal skills. The ANA’s technicians had to get numerous certifications before they were able to carry out operations independently.
“The EOD school they go to is equally as long as the American EOD school,” said Virgen, from Saltland, Calif. “From there, they come back certified as EOD techs. Coalition EOD then validates these guys to ensure they have all the tools they need and retained their knowledge. Once that’s complete, they go out and operate independently.”
The ANA’s Marine advisors said they know their role us important and are glad to mentor the EOD technicians as they master their craft.
“It’s history in the making, and it feels good to be part of it,” said Virgen.
Neutralizing IEDs make the Afghans proud, because they know that every explosive device planted in the ground has the potential to hurt or kill someone unlucky enough to get too close, said Azizi.
“I feel really good about it,” said Azizi, 22. “If we do not defuse the IEDs, the IED will take the lives of either civilians or military, so that’s why I’m happy with defusing the IEDs.”