Army sharpens skills at Operation RENDER SAFE
28 November 2013
Members of 6th Engineer Support Regiment have deployed to Solomon Islands to assist with clearing unexploded ordnance as part of Operation RENDER SAFE, the ADF’s ongoing commitment to removing WWII-era unexploded ordnance in the south Pacific.
The Australian Army has been represented at the Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician level by two members of the 20th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron and Executive Officer Captain John Leathley.
It was the second deployment to the Solomon Islands for one of the members of 20th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron and there have been a number of changes since that first deployment.
Sergeant Christopher Rohweder was sent to Solomon Islands on another explosive ordnance disposal tasking in 2006, only a few years after what the locals call the ’tension times’ that led to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, known everywhere in the Solomons as ‘RAMSI’.
Back in 2006 the damage caused to every day life by civil unrest and disruption was immediately obvious, as was the legacy of WWII battles in the region.
Sergeant Rohweder has noticed the change in one, but the other is changing much slower.
“You can clearly see the difference since 2006, with many buildings being rebuilt and services being restored, but many people can’t live what they might consider a normal life, due to all the unexploded ordnance that is lying around literally in their back yards,” he said.
“We have made a dint in the backlog of explosive ordnance disposal work this time around and it means that people in the villages can feel safer and its good to see the skills we have being put to practical use helping people.”
Captain Leathley said Operation RENDER SAFE offered a unique opportunity.
“20th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron is a joint squadron and we are deployed into a multi-nation Joint Task Force where all of us are returning to core explosive ordnance disposal skills in a physically challenging environment."
“Army has been well represented by some skilled Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians on the task force and we always learn new lessons and reinforce old ones on these types of deployments, so we take away as much as we have contributed,” Captain Leathley said.
Operations RENDER SAFE includes personnel from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and the Solomon Islands. The operation commenced the main phase of its tasking on 8 November and finishes on 7 December.