I Try & Use Remote Means First but If I Can't, I'll Deal with the Device Myself. IRISH TEAM CLEAR LEBANON BOMBS

Article excerpt

Byline: CATHAL MCMAHON in Lebanon

HURT Locker-style bomb disposal teams from Ireland are helping to clear South Lebanon of deadly explosives.

The highly-skilled soldiers work in squads to diffuse devices planted by Israeli military and Hezbollah fighters in the volatile region.

Known as Explosive Ordnance Disposal operators, these teams have sophisticated equipment to tackle the bombs but are often forced to rely on their skills alone.

One EOD operator, who cannot be identified for security reasons, told the Irish Mirror how the job requires training and bravery.

He said: "At all times I will try and use remote means first, then semi-remote and as a last option if I can't gain access remotely with a HOBO [bomb disposal robot], I'll deal with the device myself.

"It stands to reason I am not going to put myself under any undue strain or danger."

Unlike most army platoons, the teams are made up of just three people - the EOD operator, his number two and a driver. All of the officers in the Ordnance Corps are educated in either science or engineering.

The EOD operator, who is currently based with the 108 IrishFinn Battalion in At Tiri in South Lebanon, told of the qualifications he has to help him take on the difficult job.

The captain said: "I have a degree from NUI Galway and two masters - one in engineering and one in science.

"My job is tactical, [while the number two's job] and the driver's is technical.

"When confronted with a problem related to EOD, my job is threat assessment - to ascertain what I am dealing with and deal with it.

"The number two's job is to see what the problem is and see what I need for that. He will be active in the back of the truck, thinking 'He needs X amount of equipment'."

The operator said the team's equipment can be broken down into remote, semi-remote and manual and there are three types of ordnance they must tackle on a regular basis.

These would be Conventional Munitions Disposal such as an artillery shells, Improvised Explosive Devices - homemade bombs - and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.

He added: "The truck is a massive toolbox. We are presented with a problem at a call-out and it is up to myself and the number two to say, 'OK, I have a command wire IED, what tools do I need to take care of this?' '

"We operate on a number of principles - preservation of life, that is my life and the life of all those around me. It is life, property, forensics, normality.

"We say forensics because every EOD-related incident is a crime scene so we are trying to preserve forensics - but not at the expense of life and property."

Back home the team deals with explosives such as pipe bombs left by criminal and dissident gangs and this experience has proven crucial to their work in South Lebanon. …