A two-week European exercise focused on manual neutralisation of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has finished in Vienna.
From 1 to 12 September 2014, fourteen Counter-IED experts from Austria, Germany, Italy, Ireland, and Sweden took part in an intensive Manual Neutralisation Exercise at the Austrian Army’s Logistics School in Vienna. The exercise was organised by Austria as lead nation in close cooperation with the European Defence Agency (EDA).
Manual neutralisation refers to situations where a trained operator has to manually defuse an improvised explosive device. This occurs when it is not possible to tackle the device remotely, for example when the device is attached to a hostage or with chemical or even radiological material. It is one of the most mentally and technically challenging jobs performed by anyone in the armed forces, requiring high-level skills and training.
The aim of the exercise was to give participants the chance to use and develop these skills in a highly demanding, multinational environment. Over the two-week period, they were given a series of different and increasingly complex scenarios and devices to deal with. One operator from Ireland, who participated in the exercise, commented, “for most of us, this is only one element of our jobs, thankfully we do not encounter devices like this every day. Training like this is vital, to ensure that we are as sharp and up-to-date as possible when we do encounter a complex device or hostage situation.”
The Austrian officer in charge, explained the advantages of running the course at a European level, “obviously one important element is cost. By pooling demand from different countries with similar needs, we can afford to do more than we would be able to do individually. However, another important part is bringing together operatives from across Europe, learning from each other, and developing a European network of manual neutralisation experts”, he said.
Manual Neutralisation Techniques Courses and Exercises
The course is part of the EDA’s Manual Neutralisation Techniques Courses and Exercises programme. It is the second event to be held under the programme in Austria this year, after the completion of the first European Manual Neutralisation Training Course in May. Both the course and exercise made use of specially designed manual neutralisation kits for defusing improvised explosive devices. These kits were purchased by EDA and given to the Austrian Armed Forces to be stored at the logistics school, however they are available on request for operational use by all participating EDA Member States.