By Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Fletcher M. Gibson
Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines
DAVAO, Philippines – Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines Explosive Ordnance Disposal team conducted hands-on training in explosives handling with a Philippine Navy Special Operations Unit in Davao July 28-30.
During those three days, the men of Philippine Naval Special Operations Unit Seven received classroom instruction on combat lifesaving skills as well as identifying common components of improvised explosive devices and how to counter them. The final day was a live-action exercise where the teams got to put all the classroom training to the test on a simulated “direct action” mission, raiding a building rigged with IEDs.
“We find a lot of IEDs in this area,” said Lt. j.g. Malcolm Morrell, NAVSOU-7’s officer in charge. “It’s very relevant to our training.”
The first day of training covered medical tactics to be used in the field. This “Combat Life Saving” class demonstrated how combat tactics influence medical care and gave the students practice in quick life-saving steps such as tourniquets and injury assessments. The course drew on lessons learned in combat casualty care in the field as well as the instructor’s own personal experiences.
“I’ve been shot twice and blown up once,” said U.S. Army Sergeant 1st Class Marcus Smith, the medic who taught the course. “The stuff I’m going over here is the stuff my guys used to keep me alive.”
At the end of the medical portion, the NAVSOU team members received portable, individual medical kits containing all the life-saving equipment from their training. Each member received one to carry with him in the field as well as a few extras to be used in ongoing training within the unit.
The second day of training demonstrated common assembly of IEDs with extensive examples of how they are built and how they are triggered. The training will not only help the team members identify IEDs in the field, but will also allow them to recognize signs that a suspect is involved in constructing bombs based on items they may find in his possession.
“If you see a lot of these [materials], you know the guy’s up to something bad,” said U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Petty Officer 1st Class Kyle Dewey, the team leader for JSOTF-P’s EOD Bravo Team.
The three-day course also included instruction on how to build and use their own explosive devices to break down doors or safely detonate found IEDs.
All of the classroom training was put to the final test on the last day when the teams were tasked with a number of increasingly-complicated drills inside a simulated house. Challenged with a variety of trip-wires, pressure plates, and mock land-mines and grenades, each of NAVSOU-7’s two action teams demonstrated their grasp of both urban tactics and safe explosives handling. As the drills became more advanced, participants had to deal with “hostile” small arms fire and simulated injured team members requiring casualty evacuation and Combat Life Saving care. In the final stage, each team set and detonated a live explosive charge to safely destroy the simulated IED they uncovered.
“It really tested the way we act as a team,” Morrell said. “That was the most important lesson.”
“The curriculum is based on an ‘on-foot’ mission statement used by U.S. Navy EOD,” Dewey said, adding that the tests were designed around what could be carried by the individuals. “That’s closest to what they’ll be encountering.”
In addition to the medical kits, Dewey also left the team with copies of the IED recognition training materials to allow NAVSOU-7 to continue training on their own, both keeping their own skills sharp as well as teaching new members who join the team in the future.