American Forces Press Service
Sept. 14, 2009 - The Army has deployed the first of its new highly specialized explosive hazards teams to train Iraqis to counter explosives. The 130th Engineer Brigade's 15th Explosive Hazards Team from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, recently arrived here to support the brigade's reconstruction mission in Iraq's Ninevah province. The team will enhance the 130th's capabilities to train Iraqi soldiers in counter-improvised explosive device tactics and evidence collection procedures.
The teams are a new concept in military operations. Created to support explosive ordnance disposal units, each team member completes several months of intensive training ranging from mine detection and area clearance to explosives tracking and hazards planning.
"The training we went through as a unit certified us to be able to instruct other units in IED defeat, area clearance, and mine detection operations," said Sgt. James T. Williams, a technical intelligence analyst with the 15th EHT.
The Army has four explosives hazards teams. Besides the 15th, there are teams at Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Hood, Texas; and Fort Lewis, Wash.
"The 15th EHT was not only the first team to complete the certification process, but they are also the first operational EHT to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom," said Army 1st Lt. Manuel A. Orozco, 15th EHT detachment commander. "I credit my team members for the outstanding job they did to get us where we are."
Orozco said his seven-member team will provide explosives tracking, mitigation and assured mobility for the 130th and will act as a military training team for Iraqi soldiers.
While the 15th EHT arrived here certified to train other units in explosives hazards, the ever-changing operational demands in Iraq also provided the unit an opportunity to teach the Iraqis evidence collection procedures as part of their training.
"A critical part of our mission is training the Iraqi security forces in everything they need to know to replace U.S. forces as far as conducting counter-IED operations," Orozco said. "We train the trainers, so the Iraqis can take what they learn from us back to their own units and teach them how to effectively counter the IED threat."
The 15th EHT is undergoing crime-scene evidence collection certification. Before the U.S. soldiers can train the Iraqis in these procedures, they must complete several hours of sensitive site-exploitation training. Law enforcement officials with the 25th Infantry Division, which is responsible for operations in northern Iraq, will certify the 15th EHT in the procedures.
Evidence-collection training will be a major part of the 15th EHT's mission, Orozco said. Using evidence-collection procedures at crime scenes will assist the Iraqis in targeting the insurgency and, ultimately, governing themselves, he explained. Knowing how to target explosives hazards and find insurgents responsible for making, emplacing and financing IED operations gives the Iraqi government more control, he added.
(From a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)