Besmaya now home to Iraq's only EOD school

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Christie Putz
  • Deployed from 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Iraqi Army instructors and faculty, along with selected Coalition partners, were all present for the opening of Iraq's only bomb disposal school at the Besmaya Range Complex Sept. 30.

"This school deals with de-mining and all other things relating to explosive materials," said Iraqi Army Col. Jasim, Besmaya Bomb Disposal School commandant, through an interpreter.

With the ongoing threat of explosive devices planted by terrorists in all corners of the country, there is a constant need for personnel trained to diffuse each situation.

Two main courses taught at the school aim to prepare soldiers for anything they may encounter. The first course covers basic bomb disposal and de-mining, while the second focuses more on advanced bomb disposal and improvised explosive device defeat.

As the students progress through the courses, they receive training in ordnance detection, landmine detection, ordnance demolition, non-electric demolition and operation supervising. The final and most advanced training comes with the IED defeat section of the program.

"Not all devices are the same," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jeffrey Fiorito, Coalition advisor at the bomb school. For this reason, students are trained on several different scenarios and learn all the tools needed to defeat the devices, including the Mini-Andros II robot.

According to the manufacturer's Web site, the battery-operated robot is small in size and lightweight, which provides for portability and versatility. It has four wheels, articulated tracks, a two-meter telescoping arm, color surveillance camera and two-way audio. The robot can be controlled from a safe distance via either direct cable or a radio control signal.

The Mini-Andros is currently the primary tool used in detection and removal of IEDs.

Depending on the depth of the students' required training, as well as their ability to retain the information, some students will spend several weeks at the school while others could spend upward of six months, said Colonel Jasim.

Before being sent out to tackle devices in the field, the school does a screening process, which "separates the good from the bad," he said. The qualified soldiers will then fill bomb disposal companies throughout the country.

The opening comes nearly four months after the closure of the previous school located in Az Zubayr, Iraq. The previous facility's location just north of the Kuwaiti border made travel for students long and difficult. Besmaya's central location is expected to increase attendance, and more than 450 trained EOD technicians are projected within the first year.

The instructors, all Iraqi, received their training at the previous site under a "train the trainer" type of course. Since the closure, they have been focusing their efforts on getting the Besmaya school up and running, said Lieutenant Fiorito.

Tasks such as setting up the ranges and developing training scenarios for the students have all been accomplished by the Iraqi cadre under the supervision of a contracted international de-mining company.

The Iraqi instructors also play a hand in the review of the course material, which is constantly under evaluation and adjusted where necessary. For example, just days before the school's opening, a change was made to the curriculum to increase training efficiency.

"We shaved five weeks off the level-four course because a lot of time was spent reviewing material, and it was seen as unnecessary," said Lieutenant Fiorito. "This way we can put more soldiers through and graduate more trained technicians."

More graduates equates to more EOD technicians neutralizing explosive threats in the field, and more people potentially kept safe.

"The work of the operators in this establishment saves lives," said Colonel Jasim. "I feel we are really doing something for the country and the people."