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From the deep... the desert
● The pioneering Royal Navy EOD team at Horsea Island as they prepared to deploy to Afghanistan; from left, AB(D) Les Cockerton, LS(D) Ian ‘Higgy’ Higgins, PO(D) Jai ‘Digger’ Gardner and AB(D) Chris ‘Jumper’
Collins. Pictured below: Another example of Navy divers working ashore – CPO(D) Smith and LS(D) Jacobs, of Fleet Diving Unit 3, take a break near Basra before the British drawdown in southern Iraq
FROM the deep
FDU 1 supports operation, like Panther’s Claw,
to the desert –
Special Forces, FDU but there is a change of tack for
the first Royal
2 conducted ‘Very Herrick 11,” said Digger.
Shallow Water’ mine “EOD teams are going to be
Navy bomb countermeasures in based in FOBs, living, eating
disposal team
support of amphibious and sleeping alongside whichever
has deployed
forces, and FDU 3 Army unit is there.
to Helmand
had a worldwide “We will be there for six to
remit to identify eight weeks at a time, and go on
Province in
and examine new
regular foot and vehicle patrols
Afghanistan. devices and for deep
and forays.
The four divers
diving operations.
“We are like glorified
– PO Jai ‘Digger’
The second and
infantrymen until we step forward
Gardner, LS Ian
third units have now
and deal with ordnance or an
‘Higgy’ Higgins, and
merged, creating a
“We have had briefings from
ABs Chris ‘Jumper’
multi-skilled rapid
response force of 28 men.
people who have been out there,
Collins and Les Cockerton
This has also allowed for
but if you are out of the country
– have been picked to lead the
the creation of RN Explosive
for more than two weeks you are
way by working as specialists
Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams
out of date.”
alongside the Army on the front in support of the Counter IED
The locations of flashpoints
line, more than 400 miles from task group for Operation Herrick,
in the fight against Taleban
the nearest coast.
the first of which deployed at the
insurgents change with time – FOB
The Navy team will work out
beginning of last month for six
Inkermann (known as ‘Incoming’)
of Forward Operating Bases
used to be the hotspot, now it’s
(FOBs), joining soldiers on patrol
The second team is already
Babaji, a Taleban stronghold in
and operations, and they will be
well into a six-month training
southern Afghanistan which was
expected to clear any unexploded
Clearance Diving branch – it’s Turkey, France, the Gulf and even fail to function, legacy stuff from the battleground for Operation
ordnance which gets in the way.
There are eight conventional
a significant increase in our to Hawaii. the Soviet Union or other Gulf Panther’s Claw.
Normally that will be failed
EOD teams – seven Army and
capabilities and the Joint Service “Anything that goes bang we nations that may be used by the Higgy said: “It sounds like we
munitions such as bombs, mortars,
one RN – and eight IED disposal
EOD community are delighted dealt with, either exercise mines or Taleban.” will be hopping from FOB to
former World War 2 ordnance to Divers handling .50 calibre FOB – they do not want some of
grenades and the like, from both
teams (all Army) operating in
in the way that we have pulled
allow an amphibious force to land. sniper rifles is an interesting us in one FOB getting thrashed
Coalition and Taleban forces.
Afghanistan for Op Herrick 11.
this team together and that we
“The infantry training was concept, but Digger believes he if others in another FOB are not
In addition they can also be
The RAF is expected to provide
will continue to support them in
good, maybe because it was new and his colleagues were proficient doing much.
called on to make safe terrorists’
a similar team for the subsequent
Afghanistan as the Army don’t
for us, and because it was new we enough to hold their heads high “We are taking a White Ensign
IEDs (Improvised Explosive
roulement, moving the Army-
have enough operators to do this
were taking it in a bit more. alongside the squaddies. with us which will come out in the
Devices) to ensure the patrol
dominated operation slightly closer
on their own.”
“Because it is life-saving stuff, “On a lot of exercises, because FOB as we are flying the flag for
achieves its objectives, although
to the ideal of a Joint Service EOD
The men are under no illusions
perhaps we switched on to it a we were dressed in green and were the Royal Navy.
specialist Army teams will
about the task they face in
little bit more.” attached to 49 Squadron, a lot of “But because of the terrain we
normally deal with these.
Cdr Peter Greenwood, the
The Navy divers trained with 49 units didn’t know who we were, are in, as soon as we exit the gates
“If we come across something
CO of the FDS, said: “These
“The difference between this
Field Squadron (EOD), part of 33 and we just cracked on,” he said. of the FOB it stops.”
really new we will call for the
are the first RN EOD operators
and what we have all done, make
Engineer Regt (EOD), and faced a “People just assumed we were Cdr Greenwood concluded:
Army IED disposal experts and
to operate in Afghanistan, and
no bones about it, is that this is
a real shooting war and we are relentless schedule of practical and Army – maybe that’s a testament “They are there primarily to save
then stand back to allow them to
although we have operated from
going to be in the middle of it, theoretical work, although there to the training we had, and maybe lives – to open up routes through
maximise the forensics from it,”
the COB in Basra in Iraq for
particularly when out on patrol,” was still the chance to assert their to our abilities.” areas and for warfighting in
said Digger.
the past two years, Helmand is a
said Digger. Naval roots; on one section attack Les Cockerton added: “We support of Joint Service EOD.
“There is no value in us just
completely different environment,
“We have done training with the the cry was heard of “enemy ships have been amazed by the training “From Navy diver to land bomb
going in and trying to blow
more intensive and a higher level
Army, and the only thing they have Red 20, 50 metres ahead.” package we have had, and they disposal operator or sandman, I
everything up when there could
of threat.
got over us is more experience.” “There was something on have made us feel very welcome. am confident they will do us all
be something that might lead to
“They have to be as good on the
The work is very different to virtually every week, then a month “Morale is good, and we feel as proud.”
the capture of the bombers who
ground as soldiers – competent
their role with the FDS, but that of pre-op and summer leave, prepared as we can be. A lot of us “There will be a priority when
made the devices.”
with personal weapons and how to
in itself makes it interesting. then more training courses,” said said some weeks ago that we were we get back to get us back into
The four men belong to the
operate as war fighters on a patrol,
“Our normal work with FDU 2 Digger. ready to go.” our diving training for our normal
Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS),
as well as keeping a cool head to
would usually have been in support “There was infantry training The team will be cheek-by-jowl roles,” said Higgy.
part of the Fleet Diving Group
deal with ordnance that the squad
of Very Shallow Water mine and technical training, and we have with Army units on the front line. “And although there will be
(FDG), which underwent a radical
encounters – and they have risen
countermeasures,” said Higgy. had a lot of intelligence briefings “The traditional view is of a some skill fade, I am sure we will
reorganisation a year ago.
to that challenge.
“We were deployed a lot in on EOD and IEDD, what is being team based in Camp Bastion and all look forward to getting our
There were three FDG units.
“This is a big day for the
places like Norway, Scotland, used by the Americans that might waiting for a call or a planned heads wet again on our return.”
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