Bomb disposal experts: the bravest of thebrave?As we prepare to send a further 500 soldiersto Afghanistan, Thomas Harding on the secretcourse he took that selects bomb disposalexperts for the Army
By Thomas HardingPublished: 10:45PM GMT 02 Dec 2009
Joint Forces Explosive Ordnance Disposal Teams save lives in Afghanistan Photo:Staff Sergeant Mike HarveyMany soldiers cannot fathom why people volunteer to become bomb disposalexperts, knowing that they are closer to death or maiming than anyone else.Even after five years of covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is still an enigmato me. What is clear, though, is that like Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid who died inOctober while defusing his 65th IED (improvised explosive device) these peoplehave an inner self-belief reinforced by exceptional altruism towards their fellowsoldiers.As the Government announced plans to send a further 500 soldiers to Afghanistan,Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of the Defence Staff, emphasised yesterdayon Radio 4's
programme just how crucial our counter-IED operation is. "It isessential that we put in place the right protection for our people," he said. "It isessential that they have the right tactics, techniques and procedures [to counter theIED threat]."Indeed, bomb disposal experts are giving the British force in Helmand a chance of securing the peace by doing what must be one of the most hazardous jobs in one of the world's most dangerous places. So how do the Armed Forces find the right blendof calm, intelligence, skill and courage before they place these people in harm's way?To find out,
The Daily Telegraph
was given unprecedented
access to the confidentialselection process for Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) officers at QinetiQ, themilitary research company where psychometric testing weeds out the applicants."It's about composure under pressure, absolute focus with underlying courage andbravery," said Mark Stead of QinetiQ. "Psychology and physiology are all part of it you cannot have shaky hands."I took the psychometric tests and further evaluation at QinetiQ's headquarters in alarge wood outside Farnborough.