A delegation of Peruvian soldiers traveled to Spain to participate in a course on explosives deactivation. Ten members of the Peruvian Army, including commissioned and noncommissioned officers, took the course between January 24th and March 21st. Specialists from the Spanish Army at the Academy of Engineers in Hoyo de Manzanares, Madrid, taught the Disposal and Deactivation of Explosive Devices course.
The goal of the training, carried out with the support of the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group, was to strengthen the capacities of Peruvian military personnel in the disposal of explosives. An agreement between the Peruvian Army and the U.S. government established the completion of the course, which includes the creation of a specialized regional center for explosives disposal in Pisco. The General Personnel Training and Obsolete Munitions Destruction Agreement was signed in November 2015.
“The Army's idea was to train a company at the regional level in the deactivation and destruction of munitions and explosive devices,” Major Gian Ledesma Vallejo, chief of the Department of Control and Assets at the Peruvian Army's War Materiel Service, told Diálogo. “We are talking about South America as a whole. According to the agreement, the Regional Munitions and Explosive Devices Destruction Center should be in place by 2020.”
Spain not only counts with explosive disposal specialists with years of experience, but also state-of-the-art facilities. The Spanish Army military complex at Hoyo de Manzanares includes the Counter Improvised Explosive Devices Centre of Excellence and the International Demining Center, both international benchmarks in this field.
“Spain is a very professional country in this regard,” Peruvian Army First Lieutenant Ricardo Ramírez Benito, a participant in the course, told Diálogo. “It has experience because of its need to fight the ETA [Basque separatist terrorist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna] for so long, and it ended up becoming a specialist in this type of deactivation and destruction.”
Explosives deactivators, also known as EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) operators, have varying levels of experience. According to the International Mine Action Standards of the United Nations Mine Action Service, EOD operators can qualify for the basic level 1 (EOD1), to the most advanced level 4 (EOD4).
Maj. Ledesma explained that in Peru, explosives specialists reach level EOD2. Thanks to the course in Spain, the group of Peruvian service members acquired additional experience and advanced to level EOD3.
“EOD3 is more complete; they go into the deactivation of munitions, mines, explosive devices, humanitarian demining, work with dogs, and machines,” 1st Lt. Ramírez said. “The instruction is more personalized. EOD1 and EOD2 are one month long; EOD3 is two months.”
In addition to the 10 Peruvians, other Latin American service members participated in the course—three from Brazil, two from Paraguay, and one from Uruguay. The training, which lasted five hours every day, offered theoretical and practical classes with simulated scenarios.
“In the demining field, we received realistic field training,” 1st Lt. Ramírez explained. “The munitions and explosives destruction field was the same size as those found in real world situations. We had to keep our distance for security and were able to practice at ease.”
Participants also visited local security institutions and observed their various methods of operation. According to Peruvian Army Second Lieutenant Guillermo Matta Ortiz, who made the trip to Spain, the experience was enriching.
“It allowed us to broaden our knowledge by going to other institutions like the Spanish Air Force,” 2nd Lt. Matta said. “They showed us the cultural aspect and how they work. We also went to the Civil Guard and the Spanish Police, which allowed us to see how other institutions work and the links they have with each other.”
A great mission
Upon returning to Peru, participants have an important mission: to convey their knowledge to EOD operators in the different regions of the country, wherever necessary. According to Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor, the information platform of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Peru hasn’t recorded any victims of improvised explosive devices since 2014. But the majority of devices are found in coca cultivation areas.
“The great thing about the course is that the trained personnel will help […] by deactivating obsolete explosives in Tumbes, Iquitos, Trujillo, and Pisco,” Maj. Ledesma said. “The personnel responsible for [deactivating explosives] will receive support from our personnel, who, in this case, are highly trained.”
Second Lt. Matta will be deployed to Iquitos. As for 1st Lt. Ramírez, he will join four other course participants to prepare the future regional center in Pisco.
“They have the second highest ranking [EOD3] as explosives deactivation specialists,” concluded Maj. Ledesma. “In Peru, they are the top with respect to this specialty. They can train everyone from enlisted to highest-ranking officers. They are young and that will have a snowball effect.”