215th Corps soldiers learn to defeat IEDs

An Afghan soldier displays his certificate of completion for a route clearance course at Camp Shorabak, Afghanistan Aug. 30, 2017.
3 Sep 2017
CAMP SHORABAK, Afghanistan (Sept. 3, 2017) — Approximately 70 Afghan soldiers graduated a route clearance course at the Helmand Regional Military Training Center here Wednesday.

U.S. advisors, including several Marines with Task Force Southwest, led the eight-week training program for the 215th Corps, which focused on the basics of improvised explosive devices, minesweeping procedures, and conducting mounted clearance from vehicles.

"This is an important course for us, because we need to be able to clear routes on the battlefield. We've gotten better day by day, and are ready for real missions,” said Sgt. Mohammed Ashim, a course participant.

Insurgents in Afghanistan, particularly Helmand province, are known to use IEDs to block access to certain areas and harm coalition and Afghan forces, making the training paramount for future real-world operations and providing security to the local populace.

"The enemy’s number one weapon is the IED. Not only is it the [most] used weapon against Afghan forces, it’s also the number one weapon that causes casualties amongst civilians,” said U.S. Marine Capt. Colton Ducken, an advisor with Task Force Southwest and officer-in-charge of the course. "What these guys do is important in saving the lives of their fellow soldiers and winning the mission at hand … it’s important for reducing civilian casualties as well.”

Route clearance has played a pivotal role in recent missions focusing on deterring and destroying insurgency, and advisors are confident in the soldiers’ abilities to enhance this asset with their newfound skills.

"By the time they’re done, they’re very proficient at the IED basics as well as how to spot IEDs … whether that’s for logistical purpose or for getting out in front of the infantry and clearing routes,” Ducken said.

Several graduates will go to follow-on training at the Explosive Hazard Reduction Course, a three-week cycle teaching more advanced aspects of IEDs and demolition, while the other soldiers are supporting operations across Helmand.

"This is the third class I’ve done, and we’ve seen graduates from the other classes go out … and make strategic affects in this area of operations,” Ducken said. "The amount of IEDs and mines is impressive, and it starts with solid training."

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