Explosive ordnance disposal Soldiers and Filipino counterparts share knowledge|
By Sgt. 1st Class Carlos J. Lazo
Balikatan, which means "shoulder-to-shoulder" in Tagalog, provided American and Filipino service members with the opportunity to learn and train together and to share experience gained in their respective areas of operations.
U.S. Army Soldiers from the 706th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company 303rd EOD Battalion, 45th Sustainment Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and their counterparts from the Armed Forces of the Philippines conducted training on combat post-blast analysis and as well as the use of robotics.
The training kicked off Apr. 8 with a combat post-blast analysis segment where Soldiers from the 706th EOD discussed knowledge gained from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with their AFP counterparts.
"What we're trying to do is simulate a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device" said Sgt. Rudolf W. Wolter, 706th EOD. "[This will] teach them how to recover evidence and look for components, signatures. Essentially whatever the bomber used to create the device."
"We're going to take a charge and some components, put them inside a vehicle; ignite it; then allow the Filipino EOD to go in and examine the parts and pieces that were detonated," Wolter said.
For the Filipino soldiers, this was the first time they were able to study a VBIED explosion and to analyze the critical components that could help them identify who had built the bomb, said Maj. Crisanto Criscalit, commander of the EOD Battalion of the Filipino army.
"This is the first time we have trained on a post-blast analysis of a VBIED," said Criscalit.
Following the detonation, AFP immediately began scouring the blast area for any indication of the materials used to make the VBIED. Wolter and the 706th EOD Soldiers provided guidance on what clues to focus on, such as the crater created by the explosion and pieces that seemed to be from a cell phone.
"This [training] is useful," said Criscalit. "It helps forensics and helps identify the bomber." This can lead to the apprehension of the criminals, he added.
"This training is very beneficial because the AFP don't normally get this level of expertise," said Wolter. "We've all been certified by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) in doing this."
Not all EOD operations occur after a detonation. When unexploded ordnance is found or a possible IED is detected, EOD is called in, but not without some high tech help.
One high-tech device they can call upon is the Talen robot, a track-wheeled machine equipped with several cameras and a mechanical arm used for grasping and lifting, which EOD uses to get a closer look at suspected IEDs.
For the next segment of the bilateral training on Apr. 10, some friendly competition was introduced, as troops from the AFP EOD battalion set up "penalty houses," inside abandoned buildings where they created and placed practice IEDs or "penalties," that tripped if triggered by a participant.
Using their personal knowledge and experience of explosive devices many of the AFP soldiers have encountered in their country, they challenged the American Soldiers to find and dismantle all of the mock IEDs within each building, said Sgt. Dennis Heide, 706th EOD.
"They setup devices to demonstrate some of the stuff they are encountering in their country," said Heide.
Using the Talen robot, various Soldiers from both the 706th EOD and the AFP EOD battalion took turns controlling the robot, searching each building for IEDs and possible entry points. Periodically, the sound of a tripped penalty could be heard as they searched for explosives, the sound notifying the controller that he had detonated a mock IED.
For the final building, Heide opted for something a bit more hands on.
Donning the EOD9 Bomb Suit, the Monroe, Wash., native determined his safest option for entering the building as everyone quietly waited.
After careful assessment, he decided to enter the building through the back. Once inside, he discovered his decision was correct. Just past the front entrance he spotted what looked like a trip wire. The wire led to a small container taped to the wall beside the front door.
Slowly, he made his way towards the container. Once near it, he analyzed the device and formulated a deactivation plan. He would attempt to separate the simulated explosive from the trigger. "I came up and saw the wires," said Heide. "I cut the explosives out and put it aside," he said. "After that, I investigated the building and made sure it was safe."
The shared training experience proved valuable for members of the AFP EOD battalion, providing opportunities for information and cultural exchange, an overall goal of the Balikatan exercise.
Balikatan allows U.S. Forces to see how their counterparts in the Philippines work, said Heide."For the AFP, it exposes them to different ideas and tactics. [Balikatan] lets you branch out and gather knowledge from other people."