DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (Sept. 19, 2014) -- American Soldiers from the 763rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company are conducting a humanitarian mine action training mission here, this month.
A U.S. Army explosive ordnance disposal, or EOD, team deployed to the Central Asian nation to train Tajikistani and Afghan forces on EOD procedures.
The Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri-based 763rd EOD Company is part of the 84th EOD Battalion, 71st EOD Group, 20th CBRNE Command (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives).
Headquartered on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the 20th CBRNE Command is the U.S. Army's only formation that combats chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive threats. Soldiers and civilians from 20th CBRNE Command deploy around the world to counter Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), eliminate CBRNE threats and defeat Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense, the humanitarian action program mission is being conducted in support of U.S. Central Command.
"The goal of the humanitarian mine action mission is to create an organic capability within the Tajik Ministry of Defense to be able to safely and efficiently mitigate explosive hazards posed by landmines and UXO (unexploded ordnance)," said Sgt. 1st Class James Garton, the U.S. Army Central EOD operations non-commissioned officer.
"We are doing this by three 'train the trainer' sessions per language group, Russian and Dari, for a total of six separate training arrangements," said Garton, an Army EOD technician from Bayfield, Colorado, who deployed to Iraq twice. "The graduates of these sessions will be fully prepared to act as cadre and train a larger force of capable EOD specialists."
In a previous training session in Tajikistan, U.S. Army EOD technicians also trained military personnel from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Part of a training initiative that began in June 2014, Garton said this is the first humanitarian mine action mission in the U.S. Central Command area of operations in 11 years. The last was held in Lebanon, in 2003.
According to 763rd EOD Company Commander Capt. Jonathan M. Vandivere, a native of Sacramento, California, the EOD team is training Tajikistani and Afghan forces on how to safely deal with ordnance.
"This means teaching basic EOD functions, such as demolition procedures and safety techniques to dispose of or store ammunition," said Vandivere.
Staff Sgt. Garrett Herbert and Staff Sgt. Steven Neal are taking part in the training mission. Herbert and Neal have both confronted EOD challenges in hotspots around the world, and have previously trained indigenous explosive ordnance disposal forces in other nations.
Helping others to understand explosives capabilities is what Neal likes most about deploying for training missions. Neal, who is originally from Jacksonville, Florida, previously conducted a humanitarian mine action mission in the Republic of Chad.
A seasoned Army EOD technician from Basin, Utah, who took part in a similar mission to Romania, Herbert said the most challenging part of the training mission is overcoming the language barrier.
"The most rewarding part is teaching the soldiers how to be safe," said Herbert, a combat veteran from Iraq and Afghanistan, who has defeated more the 100 explosive devices.