Tackling roadside bombs in Afghanistan

Air force bomb disposal experts based at RAF Wittering are getting ready to go out to Helmand Province - after five months of training with the army.

The team is being sent to the front line to help infantry units deal with the make-shift bombs, known as 'improvised explosive devices', which claimed the lives of three quarters of the British soldiers killed in Afghanistan last year.

Squadron Leader Mick Haygarth says dealing with 'IEDs' is consequently the military's top priority - across all three services:

"There's a bomb disposal squadron here which has been trained to the same degree as its army and navy counterparts...We have done joint bomb disposal work with the army on and off for the last ten years but now it is the number one priority. There is a great resource here which needs to be tapped and we're now offering that capability up to the Ministry of Defence."

The four man teams will be based at Camp Bastion but will be embedded with infantry units working from forward operating bases across Helmand Province. 

The air force personnel have spent the last five months training with the army to make sure they are fully prepared to fight on the front line. 

Corporal 'Baz' Stone says it has been fairly intense:

"We've been doing basic patrol skills, fighting skills. It's mainly based on physical fitness, because we've got to be able to things like carry 30kg over 8 miles in less than 2 hours, things like that. We've got a lot of equipment to carry."

The teams will be working alongside groups from the Royal Engineers, who will be called in to search areas for suspected bombs. Cpl Stone took us through what the counter-IED squad does next:

"We've got two metal detectors. The first person goes down the road and sweeps for devices. 10 metres back is the second person, doing exactly the same thing....the robot then goes down, places a charge next to the device and extracts back...

"It's a quick way of getting rid of the thing so other vehicles can go past. We always try and use the robot if possible, it's a lot better than somebody going down there."

After 13 years in the forces Cpl Stone is not especially phased about his next deployment:

"We just need to go out there and do it. It's just a job to us, it's what we get paid to do.

I'm a little bit apprehensive - but probably a little bit better than my lass at the minute!".

The first team is due to fly out around March, with another team on standby to follow on afterwards.

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