American Forces Press Service
March 24, 2009 - A thunderous boom resounded across the desert as debris and truck parts fell to the earth and Iraqi policemen rushed to the blast scene. Fortunately, this was not a scene at a crowded marketplace, but instead, a training range in Salahuddin province where Iraqi police honed their skills in crime-scene investigation in the aftermath of a bomb.
During the March 18 training, Iraqi police learned advanced post-blast analysis techniques in the classroom, and then applied the knowledge in a series of coalition-led training exercises. In the final exercise, explosives experts rigged a truck with a 40-pound bomb and safely detonated it so the investigators could examine a fresh, large crime scene.
"Today, we detonated a small, magnetically attached improvised explosive device first to introduce the Iraqi policemen to the procedures of safely clearing and collecting evidence of a crime scene dealing with small explosives," said Navy Cmdr. Eric Wirstrom, commander for the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 1, Task Force Troy.
"In the second iteration, we used a larger forum for applying the techniques we taught the Iraqi policemen," Wirstrom continued. "We used a large vehicle-borne improvised explosive device so that the policemen would become well-rounded in dealing with complex situations."
The training included hands-on exercises designed to familiarize police with proper tactics and procedures for handling dangerous explosive elements. It also emphasized the correct ways to approach, investigate and collect evidence from crime scenes.
The training imparted awareness of how people can unknowingly damage crime scenes by moving objects or destroying evidence that could help track down guilty perpetrators.
"We have learned so much that we didn't have an idea about before," Iraqi Sgt. Maj. Omar Salim said. "We have learned not to touch or collect any evidence of a crime scene without using gloves because we know that our fingerprints will damage the important objects of the scene.
"We also learned how to identify and collect the useful things that will help piece together the crime scene, and not just pick up everything," he added.
Wirstrom said the willingness of Iraqi police to train and learn, and the continued support of coalition forces, should bring Salahuddin residents comfort in knowing their police have the capability to handle security operations in the province.
"Thanks to the training that we've received during the past four months, we are actually growing closer in being at a level where we specialize in conducting safe and efficient explosive ordnance disposal operations," Iraqi Lt. Col. Abdul al-Hadi, Iraqi police EOD commander, said. "We have learned so much in this particular area that we are confident that we will be able to provide the necessary security measures for the Salahuddin province."
(From a Multinational Division North news release.)