HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan - The eleventh rotation of Estonian troops serving with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan made an all-time best per rotation when they disposed 106 improvised explosive devices last year. However, the current, twelfth rotation is half way through their tour of duty and has already disposed 68 IEDs.
The success in disposing this amount of IEDs is a combined effort of the Estonian Improvised Explosive Device Disposal Team (IEDDT) and the Estonian combat engineers. These soldiers have a great responsibility as IEDs pose a serious threat to the Afghan people as well as to the Afghan National Security Forces and the coalition forces. Every disposed IED means saved lives.
Almost 200 disposed IEDs in nine months is the result of a well balanced cooperation between the Estonian IEDDT and the Estonian combat engineers serving in the Helmand province. The key to success lies in the flexible standard operating procedures of the Estonian troops and in their mobility.
“Cool temper, good knowledge, being a team player and a natural interest in different technical solutions and different explosive devices,” said the senior non commissioned officer of the Estonian IEDDT, master sergeant Eero Naudi, when describing the qualities his team members are required to have.
According to SGT-MAJ Naudi serving as an IED disposal expert requires constant training and being up to date as the insurgents are adapting their technologies and coming up with new triggers and anti-disposing systems. “You have to be interested in the job you are doing and you have to keep yourself up to date, otherwise it will be really difficult to be a successful disposal expert,” said SGT-MAJ Naudi.
SGT-MAJ Naudi with his team members is analyzing the IEDs they find and they share the gathered information with their coalition partners. The coalition partners are also important to Estonians when it comes to training. The Estonian IEDDT specialists are trained in Estonia and in the United Kingdom as well, so they have the same training and understanding as their British brothers in arms. However, their flexibility enables the Estonians to react swiftly when needed.
Their flexibility and mobility is of high importance when the IED disposal experts are working together with the Estonian infantry company’s combat engineers. The combat engineers who serve with the infantry company have the task to provide freedom of movement to the Estonian infantry company and prepare the IED site for the disposal experts.
When a combat engineer’s ground radar picks up a signal he carefully inspects the site and determines the presence of the improvised explosive device. The procedures require that the disposal experts are to be called to take the IED with them or dispose it on site. Still, there are circumstances where the combat engineer has to dispose the explosive device himself. For example when there is not possible to cordon the site for a longer period of time. All the Estonian combat engineers are trained to destroy improvised explosive devices themselves when needed.
According to the Estonian combat engineers they have to be bold enough to be on point and they have to have the knowledge of where and how to look for an IED. A combat engineer also needs to have leadership skills to tell the rest of the infantry squad how and where to provide security when the combat engineer is doing his job.
When disposing IEDs, the disposal experts and combat engineers are doing their part in providing security to the Afghan people and their work helps to get the coalition closer to its goals.
The current Improvised Explosive Device Disposal Team started its service in Helmand in November 2011 and is the fourth rotation of the Estonian IEDD Teams in Afghanistan. The combat engineers have served with the infantry company since 2007.
The Estonian soldiers have served in Afghanistan since 2003 and in the Helmand province since 2006.