Counter IED instructors in Cambodia to exchange knowledge in advance of ASEAN Summit
February 2, 2012
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia--As military operations wind down in Iraq and Afghanistan, instructors from the Asia Pacific Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Fusion Center are still busy.
The Fort Shafter, Hawaii, based instructors and interagency partners were in Cambodia Jan. 16-27 for a subject matter expert exchange with members of that nations' elite counterterrorism unit, the National Counter Terrorism Special Forces (NCTSF).
Master Sgt. Brandon Jackson, the center's lead on the exchange, said the Cambodian commandos specialize in VIP security, hostage rescue, land and boat assaults, and explosive ordnance disposal. He said thanks to this latest information exchange, Cambodian forces are better prepared in identifying and defeating improvised explosive devices.
"The information on counter IED principles and awareness discussed the past two weeks will certainly go a long way in helping this unit prepare for what will be their most important mission since its creation four years ago," said Jackson.
Cambodia's capital of Phnom Penh will be the site of this year's meeting of the Association of Southeastern Asian Nations . It's the first time the Cambodians will host the political and economic summit, where security will be at a premium with visiting heads of states and diplomats to include United States President Barrack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Jackson said despite its war-torn past, Cambodia is not a hot bed of IED activity. According to the country's own information website, there has been only one IED incident the past 10 years and that device failed to detonate. Its landscape, especially along the Vietnam border, is littered with unexploded ordnances that could be used for future IED attacks. With several government and private sector leaders gathering in one place for meetings and conferences, the city and its distinguished visitors could be targets for regional violent extremist organizations.
"The transnational threat is a high priority at U.S. Pacific Command, so it's something that is a big concern for us and them," said Lt. j.g. Matthew Grove, an EOD expert from the Navy's Mobile Unit Five stationed in Guam and a contributor in the exchange. "We've seen in open source reporting there's been infiltration into Cambodia by some extremist organizations. Not sure if they're transporting material or funding is being set up."
Whatever the case, Jackson said the Cambodians are leaving nothing to chance requesting from his cadre of counter IED experts information on counter IED tactics. Jackson said his team also devised a week of full mission profiles reflecting realistic scenarios.
"This unit will be the internal security and reaction force for the ASEAN Summit in November. After our visit and continued engagements, the Cambodians will have a better grasp of what to look for and how to deal with an IED situation. They were eager to learn and their loyalty and dedication to this job is beyond reproach, "said Jackson, who spends several months a year overseas coordinating and organizing these counter IED exchanges with partner nations.
Jackson said when his trainers are not training U.S. forces deploying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, they travel the Asia-Pacific region conducting these exchanges with allied partners in accordance with U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Army Pacific's Theater Security Cooperation Program.
Jackson also said with the Pentagon's strategic shift from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific Theater, these engagements become increasingly important in developing and maintaining security, providing the United States with access to these countries, and improving working relationships with allies and partners in the region.
During the closing ceremony, NCTSF Chief of Staff Col. Moeung Makara told his commandos that he was impressed with what they've learned, but that there is more work ahead as they prepare of ASEAN.
"We are not 100 percent ready to counter an IED if there should ever be one, but thanks to the subject matter expert exchange we are better than before," Makara said.
The NCTSF is commanded by Maj. Gen. Hun Manet, a West Point graduate who is also the deputy chief of staff for the Royal Cambodian Army and is the eldest son of Cambodia's prime minister, Hun Sen.
As the executive agent for all counter IED training for U.S. Pacific Command, the Asia Pacific Counter-IED Fusion Center uses the latest intelligence and threat reporting to provide theater specific C-IED training and solutions to United States assets and partner nations. In 2011, the Asia Pacific Counter-IED Fusion Center trained more than 7,000 American forces and conducted exchanges with more than 700 allied and partner-nation personnel.