CANADIAN FORCES BASE BORDEN, Ontario — Explosive ordnance disposal technicians from 11 different nations improved their life-saving and mission-enabling skills during Exercise Ardent Defender in Canada, Sept. 18 - Oct. 22.
The exercise brought together military and law enforcement bomb disposal technicians from the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, France, South Korea, Australia, Colombia, Mexico and Ecuador.
U.S. Army EOD technicians from the Fort Drum, New York-based 754th EOD Company and 760th EOD Company as well as the Fort Belvoir, Virginia-based 55th EOD Company took part in the exercise.
The scenarios included a wide variety of improvised explosives devices, including vehicle-borne IEDs, radio-controlled IEDs, person-borne IEDs and IEDs targeting patrols and convoys.
A troop commander from the Canadian Armed Forces Joint Counter-Explosive Threat Task Force said the training scenarios tested their techniques. His team worked with Mexican and Colombian forces in developing neutralization techniques to defeat different types of IEDs.
“The highlight of the exercise for me was the incorporation of training scenarios intended to test the quality of our procedures,” said the troop commander. “All operators were challenged to get out of their comfort zones in order to neutralize different types of improvised explosive devices which became more complex day after day.”
The seasoned troop commander, who has deployed to Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, asked not to be identified by name. He said the exercise improved all of the EOD technicians involved.
“Working with different EOD teams around the world strengthened their overall knowledge and procedures towards the ever-growing global threat of the increasingly complex explosive threat environment and showcased how important it is to continue to exercise in a multinational environment and leverage the unique capabilities of other government departments,” he said.
Master Sailor Andy O’Brien, a two-year Improvised Explosive Device operator from the Royal Canadian Navy in Victoria, British Columbia, said every military brought different equipment and procedures that added new weapons to his explosive disposal arsenal.
“Exercise Ardent Defender provided some great training value, my favorite being the scenarios with multiple secondary devices,” said O’Brien, who previously trained with U.S. military EOD technicians on Camp Dodge, Iowa, during Exercise Raven’s Challenge. “These gave me more exposure to the EOD world and allowing me to really hone my skills.”
One of the American participants, Staff Sgt. Jeremy M. Poe from the U.S. Army’s 55th Ordnance Company (EOD), said working with other nations improved his technical and tactical knowledge.
“We were able to have Canadian and Australian EOD techs join our team for several of the training incidents,” said Poe, a Hanover, Pennsylvania, native who has served in the U.S. Army for four years. “This opportunity to team up with international partners was beneficial because we were able to combine our equipment, knowledge and experience to approach the situation in different ways than we normally would.”
Poe said he encountered unique training devices and scenarios that he will recreate for his fellow EOD technicians on Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
All of the U.S. Army EOD technicians were from the 192nd EOD Battalion “Renegades,” which is part of the 52nd EOD Group and 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command, the U.S. Department of Defense’s premier all hazards formation.
The Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland-headquartered 20th CBRNE Command has Soldiers and civilians who deploy from 19 installations in 16 states to confront and defeat the world’s most dangerous weapons and hazards in support of military operations and civil authorities.
The deployable command is home to 75 percent of the active U.S. Army’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear specialists and Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians, as well as the 1st Area Medical Laboratory, CBRNE Analytical and Remediation Activity, three Nuclear Disablement Teams and five Weapons of Mass Destruction Coordination Teams.
Staff from the Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based 192nd EOD Battalion served as the Canadian Armed Forces squadron commanders during the exercise.
Lt. Col. Joel D. Smith, the 192nd EOD battalion commander; Command Sgt. Maj. Benjamin O. Brinkmeyer; the senior enlisted leader; and Battalion Chaplain Capt. Dovid Egert also visited Canada during the exercise and watched their Soldiers in action.
Capt. Robert W. Cook from the 192nd EOD Battalion spent a month in Canada for the exercise, serving as a troop commander for six teams and 14 personnel from the United States, Canada and the Netherlands. Along with training with allied EOD technicians, Cook said one of the highlights of the exercise was observing a Colombian EOD team complete a training scenario leveraging different tools and techniques to succeed against familiar threats.
Cook added that training together with EOD counterparts from other nations will better prepare his Soldiers for future missions.
“Interoperability was key to our success,” said Cook, a Boise, Idaho, native who has deployed to Iraq. “Over the course of the exercise, we could see the team grow into a cohesive unit as we all standardized our communications and reporting.”
Sgt. 1st Class Sean M. Caldwell from the 192nd EOD Battalion served as the squadron senior enlisted leader during the exercise.
“The (192nd EOD Battalion) specialists were made stronger and more equipped to enable lethality, primarily through the observation of partner nation tactics, techniques and procedures,” said Caldwell, a 21-year U.S. Army veteran from Xenia, Ohio, who has deployed to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Maj. Thomas N. Shanahan, the 192nd EOD Battalion operations officer, said the multinational counter explosive threat exercise confirmed the ability of the EOD technicians to operate in a complex training environment that was designed to challenge them.
“The experience was extremely positive and educational,” said Shanahan, an Iraq veteran from Cecil, Pennsylvania. “As the squadron command, we conducted staff planning and staff control of multinational counter-IED assets within the area of operations. We were able to exercise NATO reporting processes and utilize our multinational liaison officers and troop command teams to maximize the capabilities of the EOD, search and tactical exploitation group.”