By Sgt. Angela LordenOctober 24, 2016
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait -- "Fire in the hole!" a Soldier shouted from behind a sandy berm.
A translator echoed the warning to the others, who also crouched and sought safety. A moment of silence was followed by a deafening explosion that boomed through the mountains of Tajikistan. No one was hurt. This was just an exercise.
It was part of the Humanitarian Mine Action training course in Tajikistan, September 19 to 30, during which U.S. Soldiers instructed 39 service members and civilians from Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Armenia about proper demining procedures.
Land mines, unexploded ordnance and other explosive remnants of war contaminate millions of square meters of the Central and Southeast Asia regions, where they have the potential to maim and kill children, women and men.
"This course enhances regional security by training these individuals how to take care of enemy remnants of war that litter their lands," said 1st Lt. Joe Gianino, an explosive ordnance disposal officer from the 723rd Ordnance Company (EOD) in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and instructor for the course.
"It makes their communities much safer. It makes their governments more stable when they're able to give these lands back to their civilians."
The program consisted of four phases. The first three phases taught ordnance education, identification and explosives safety. The U.S. Soldiers taught the fourth and final phase, which focused on improvised explosive device awareness and recognition.
"It's giving different perspectives from different countries," explained Sgt. 1st Class Michael Wells, a U.S. Army Central EOD officer and the program manager of the course. "The way I solve an EOD problem is not the same that an Afghan would. [The course] encourages that learning environment."
Participants graduated the course with an international certification, qualifying them to serve their countries in a mine-action capacity. The certificate is in accordance with the International Mine Action Standards.
"This is the second class that has finished our program," Wells said.
The program was initiated in 2014 on the recommendation of U.S. Army Central and the U.S. Embassy in Tajikistan. With U.S. Central Command's permission, the program was coordinated with the embassy and the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
"By utilizing overseas humanitarian, disaster and civic-aid funding, we are able to provide training aides, equipment and develop material," Wells said.
The program's design is based on the "train the trainer" model.
"We are creating instructors that return and teach future classes," Wells said. "The end goal is to have a sustainable and self-enduring regional explosives hazards center run by the Tajikistan Ministry of Defense with partners from Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan."
The center is scheduled to be finalized by 2018.
"Land mines, unexploded ordinance and [explosive remnants of war] are not just problems throughout the region, but throughout the world," Wells said.
"They limit economic prosperity and they also kill and maim innocent children, women and men. The only way to improve this is through education."
Wells said all who attended the course had done so for one collective, humanitarian reason.
"We have one common goal," he said, "to rid explosive hazards and to create a more stable region."