CJTF-HOA, IMATC Partner to Teach Safe De-mining Practices
To many, Kenya invokes thoughts of a rich culture, friendly people, and the wonders of a safari. Few people realize that Kenya is also home to a center whose mission is to train people worldwide in the process of safe de-mining in affected countries.
The International Mine Action Training Center (IMATC), which opened in the outskirts on Nairobi in February, 2005, is a partnership between the British and Kenyan armed forces and includes personnel from the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. IMATC aims to alleviate suffering caused by landmines and to provide training on safe demining techniques. Landmines are a daily threat in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Iraq, Somalia, and dozens of other countries around the world.
"Mine clearance is important throughout the world. My job is to train Kenyans and personnel from other countries how to effectively handle their landmine problems. We teach our students how to probe safely and, once they find a mine, be able to take care of it," said U.S. Navy Senior Chief Michael Brown, Lead Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Instructor.
Brown explained that the main focus of IMATC is "to train Kenyans to perform de-mining and EOD missions throughout the Horn of Africa."
According to Clear Path International, the world has roughly 110 million landmines spread among as many as 80 countries. More than 140 million people live in exposed to the dangers of landmines or unexploded ordnance. Roughly 25,000 people are killed or injured by mines each year. Two out of every three victims being civilians and one in every four being children.
The IMATC faculty and students are working to mitigate this hazard.
Kenyan Army Sergeant Douglas Mwangi, EOD and Demining Instructor, says the key to the center's success is the capability to work in an international organization.
"One of the challenges is the language, because here we teach in English, and when we have some of the African countries we try to instruct a little in Swahili," he said. "This forces those who don't understand English to bring their own interpreter. That is very challenging to us because within the scope of the lesson it may take wrong because of the interpretation."
Colin Hill is a former U.K. military EOD officer. Now he's an IMATC EOD instructor and Small Arms and Light Weapons Counter Proliferation Program Manager. He explained that UN reports validate the success of the center, which is based on the number of square meters cleared.
Many countries have enormous stockpiles which are stored poorly in heavily populated areas, leading to a high risk of catastrophic accidents. To counter this risk, the center has branched out by adding a disaster management cell and small arms and light weapons wing.
"In the small arms light weapons area, there is a lot of naivety and misunderstanding. Lack of control is a key issue. That is why we are working with the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, to look at stockpile security and management," said Hill. By diversifying, the center is eligible to receive non-governmental organizational support from agencies such as Humanitarian Mine Action.
"We are providing a capability here at IMATC with mine and UXO detection dogs," said Philip James, IMATC Mines Awareness program manager and former UK military Bomb Disposal Operator. "Dogs have been a proven asset in clearance operations. We are also providing training courses for both demining and EOD, to service the Humanitarian Mine Action NGOs."
Students come to the center to grow professionally in a unique environment. IMATC student Nico Bosman explained that whether the student is a former military member or an average citizen wanting to make a difference he is leaving the center with an excellent knowledge base.
"I can recommend the course for the experienced and the inexperienced. I think the standard of the course is excellent and the knowledge we gain is very helpful. It will be a career highlight for me," Bosman said.
For more information on the International Mine Action Training Center, visit http://www2.army.mod.uk/unitsandorgs/trestabl/imatc/index.htm.