usa image
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

JINJA, Uganda -- Disguised in a Uganda People's Defense Force military uniform, an adversary moves quickly to attack seven soldiers while out on patrol. The soldiers' swift reactions successfully defeat the enemy. As the team approaches the adversary's body, they discover he is wearing a suicide vest.

Disarming a suicide vest worn by a fallen adversary is one of many scenarios used during the counter improvised explosive device training at Justified Accord 2018. The exercise takes place at the Uganda Rapid Deployment Capability Centre June 18-29, 2018, and focuses on the African Union Mission in Somalia, an active regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations.

"This scenario directly deals with what UPDF soldiers are dealing with in Somalia," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jacob Rafalson, an ordnance officer and platoon leader assigned to the 62nd Ordnance Company, (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), 242nd Ordnance Battalion. "We are doing real-life training and making actual training aides that they will see in Somalia."

According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia, IEDs kill more than 1,400 civilians each year and are the deadliest threat to lives in the Horn of Africa.

"This training is important to us as a force because a lot of skills have been acquired," said UPDF 1st Lt. Ian Agaba, an EOD lead planner assigned to the engineering brigade. "A lot of dynamics have come in, and technology has changed."

The two-week C-IED training consists of classroom training in the morning and a practical exercise in the afternoon, covering an array of different scenarios such as vehicle-borne IEDs, suicide vests, IEDs buried in the ground, remote controlled IEDs, pressure plates and booby traps.

The EOD team carefully selects scenarios based on real-world situations within Somalia. The training is imperative to UPDF soldiers who will potentially deploy in the fight against Al-Shabab.

Explosive ordnance disposal is an inherently high-risk operation. UPDF and U.S. soldiers agree safety is critical to all operations involving explosives.

"Over time, the insurgents develop new techniques, but we have to maintain the old safety techniques in order to be effective (while training with UPDF soldiers)," said U.S. Army Spc. Brock Bleazard, EOD technician, 62nd OD (EOD) Co., 242nd BN.

African partners, the U.S., and European nations remain focused on regional collaboration to stand as a unified effort against common threats in Somalia.

"The Ugandans have a great EOD team; I have enjoyed working with them," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Gray, the U.S. EOD team leader, 62nd OD (EOD) Co., 242nd BN. "They are well trained, motivated and a couple of them have already been to Somalia. They understand what's happening on the ground there."