Thursday, December 29, 2011

Afghan, Coalition Forces Partner to Destroy Explosives

By Air Force 1st Lt. Mark Graff
Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah Public Affairs

FARAH PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Dec. 29, 2011 – Afghan soldiers, U.S. sailors and members of a local provincial reconstruction team partnered to dispose of more than 250 pieces of confiscated unexploded ordnance, improvised explosive device materials, mines and ammunition here Dec. 27, officials said.

The weapons totalled more than 1,300 pounds of explosive material and more than 50 types of ordnance. The items were carefully transported from a secure location in Farah City and safely destroyed by Explosive Ordnance Disposal Platoon 815 technicians on Forward Operating Base Farah.

“Most of these items were emplaced [as weapons] … and [we] came and got them,” said Afghan National Army Col. Abdul Razak, who organized the handover of the weapons.

Razak, the director of the Disarmament of Illegally Armed Groups program here, said the items were accumulated through Afghan army cooperation with officials from Farah’s National Directorate of Security. The weapons, he said, were gathered through insurgent reintegration programs, during ANSF patrols and sometimes, after reports from local citizens.

The weapons were a danger to the public and to Afghan and coalition forces, Razak said.

“Insurgents want to use these [weapons] against NATO, ANA and ANP,” he said.

The weapons were collected throughout Farah province over the course of the last six months. The confiscated materials were stored in a secure location until the handover was arranged.

PRT Farah leadership enlisted the support of the EOD team due to their expertise with these scenarios. The situation, while dangerous, was kept under control by the team’s methodical approach to handling the items.

“The amount of things that were in moderate to unstable configuration was significant, so it was definitely a ‘take it slow’ approach, and triage the explosive threats and make sure that we have a safe workspace,” said Navy Chief Petty Officer Sam Crumbaugh, EOD Platoon 815’s team leader. “With regard to … moving it to a range … you still want to ensure that during transport you’re safe and that’s what we did.”

Navy Cmdr. Shane Voudren, who leads PRT Farah, said the Afghan army’s leadership and the Navy EOD experts were in the lead throughout the mission.

“This was an ANA and EOD show. As the PRT, we act as enablers a lot of the time. We ask ourselves, ‘How can we enable better security or governance,’ and this was a way to do that,” Voudren said.

The Afghan soldiers and police demonstrated their improved skills and capabilities during this mission, he said.

“They’ve got some solid leadership,” Voudren said. “They’re a formidable security force. And most importantly, they’re keeping Farah City secure and making some strides in some key districts in the province.”

The commander added that the PRT and other coalition forces at Forward Operating Base Farah have developed a rapport with provincial government officials and Afghan security forces that led to this event.

“[Col. Razak] approached us recently and asked for our assistance. Because we’ve developed a strong relationship over the course of the PRT’s history, things like this are possible,” Voudren said.

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