U.S.-Burundi EOD exchange boosts skills, builds relationships
U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal technicians from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and Burundi National Defense Force combat engineers conducted a Humanitarian Mine Action exercise in Bujumbura, Burundi, Aug. 5-23, 2013.
The exchange allowed the service members an opportunity to share best practices and gain a better understanding of how to conduct unexploded ordnance reconnaissance, basic demolition procedures, rigging for remote movement, and safe-handling and storage procedures.
A combination of classroom and hands-on instruction, the exchange was designed "to improve basic explosive ordnance disposal knowledge," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Lincoln Saucier, a Warwick, R.I. native.
Burundi supplies troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia, an active, regional peacekeeping mission. The exchange will help prepare the Burundian soldiers for potential deployments to Somalia.
"They go downrange a lot and we want to make sure they have the knowledge to do well," said Saucier. "We're here to help broaden their skill base."
One of the exercise's participants, a BNDF adjutant, agreed the exercise has better prepared them for deployments.
"We deploy to other countries; so this exercise was important to me and other soldiers," the adjutant said. "We now know how to better react and handle unexploded ordnance.
The U.S. Navy EOD technicians, made up of personnel from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Eight from Naval Station Rota, Spain, and EODMU 6, Virginia Beach, Va., shared best practices with nearly 20 Burundian soldiers. In turn, the soldiers will share newly-gained knowledge with others.
"We will use the lessons we learned here to train others," said the participating group's training officer, a BNDF major. He said they increased knowledge on how to conduct reconnaissance, safely move ordnance to locations where people can't get hurt, and how to destroy ordnance.
"But my favorite part of the exercise was learning more about how to read and mark the nomenclature of ordnance to help identify its type," the major said.
Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Balliet, an EOD technician and class leader, said he was pleased with how well the students retained the information.
"I was impressed with their knowledge and enthusiasm," he said. "They grasped the material well and showed how to apply it."
Several Burundian soldiers said they hoped the Americans will continue similar exercises.
"We built a friendship and partnership and I enjoyed working with the Americans," said the BNDF major. "Hopefully they'll return so other soldiers can receive the same opportunity to work with them."
The Humanitarian Mine Action program and similar exercises support CJTF-HOA's mission to strengthen security in East Africa through military-to-military engagements with partner nations.
Editor's note: The names of Burundi National Defense Force soldiers are intentionally omitted by request of the Burundi government officials.