Divers to lead fight against Afghan bombs

MISSION PO (Diver) Gareth Buffrey and LS (Diver) Simon Day are being deployed to Afghanistan to train local bomb disposal operatives in IED and mine clearance.     Picture: Steve Reid (111067-202)
MISSION PO (Diver) Gareth Buffrey and LS (Diver) Simon Day are being deployed to Afghanistan to train local bomb disposal operatives in IED and mine clearance. Picture: Steve Reid (111067-202)
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EXPLOSIVES experts from the Royal Navy are heading to Afghanistan to help in the fight against deadly roadside bombs.

Petty Officer (Diver) Gareth Buffrey and Leading Seaman (Diver) Simon Day of Fleet Diving Unit 2, based at Horsea Island, volunteered to spend six months in the country.

They will support the British Army to train the Afghan National Army ahead of British forces pulling out of the conflict.

PO(D) Buffrey, 41, said: ‘It’ll be my first time in Afghanistan and I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’ve been in the navy 24 years so this was the last chance to get six months under my belt before I retire in 2014.’

For the first time, navy divers will mentor Afghan troops in the latest bomb disposal techniques. This is crucial as part of the plan to pull British forces out of the country in 2015.

‘It’s important that the people in the Afghan National Army know what they’re doing because we can’t just pull out in 2015 and leave a void,’ said PO(D) Buffrey.

Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are the biggest threat posed by the Taliban to coalition forces in the country.

LS(D) Day, 31, said: ‘They are cheap to produce, can be placed pretty much anywhere and are hard to detect. That’s why it’s incredibly important for us to be passing on what we’ve learnt to Afghan troops.’

It is LS(D) Day’s first deployment to Afghanistan.

He said: ‘I feel excited about it. I put my hand up to go out there because it will be a whole new experience working with cutting edge technology.

‘It will be a challenge working with the Afghan troops, especially with the language barrier but that challenge excites me.’

Although the navy is renowned as underwater bomb specialists, divers sent to Afghanistan are land-based, using their knowledge of explosives to help overcome the dangerous threat of the IEDs scattered across the country.

This is the fourth naval diver deployment to the conflict. They wear between 80 and 100kg of kit while working in intense heat that reaches above 40C in summer time.

Mark Savage, 41, who is the Commanding Officer of the Fleet Diving Squadron, said: ‘I’m immensely proud.

‘This demonstrates the versatility of the Royal Navy diver. We can do underwater explosive disposal and be able to transfer the skills to a land environment to operate with the army.’