Dong Ha, November 27, 2009
Fifteen Battle Area Clearance (BAC) searchers of Project RENEW have been awarded certificates recognizing the training and technical proficiency they have achieved during the past two years in removing unexploded ordnance (UXO) from contaminated areas of the province.
Chris Matute, EOD Technical Advisor of the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation (GWHF) presented the certificates to Project RENW clearance team members in the presence of Project RENEW’s Coordinator and the Provincial Military Headquarters representative.
The team was established in September 2007 to carry out a cooperative program on UXO clearance testing high-tech equipment in Quang Tri Province, which is considered the most bomb and mine affected area in Vietnam.
Speaking at the ceremony awarding the certificates, Mr. Hoang Nam, Project RENEW Coordinator, expressed his appreciation to GWHF for their technical assistance and contributions to training the team members and their support to field evaluations of Project RENEW’s UXO clearance program. “These certifications reflect the proficiency in accordance with IMAS these team members have strived to attain and will serve as one of the indicators for evaluating the project objective of professional capacity building in order to efficiently support local demining operations”, said Nam.
According to the GWHF EOD TA, Chris Matute, the standards to which the team members are certified are in accordance with CEN EOD Level 1. “All the successes that our program has achieved so far are definitely ascribed to the team’s great efforts,” said Matute. In fact, the team’s demonstrated skills during classroom and field operations have qualified them to conduct certain specific tasks without direct supervision from international technical experts.
During the past two years, the clearance team has achieved measurable results in reducing the threat of unexploded ordnance (UXO) to local people living in contaminated areas, and in contributing to local development efforts. The team has cleared an area of 5.6 hectares in Ai Tu Townlet, a site which was a logistics base of the U.S military adjacent to Ai Tu Airbase and Phoenix Hill. At present, infrastructure is being built and construction is underway to develop the site into a handicraft village.
At another site called Trieu Trach, the team has introduced a modular detection array for field testing and evaluation, and that effort has produced some significant and very encouraging results in terms of speed of clearance and unprecedented progress in “area reduction” – or eliminating the amount of ground which must be subjected to labor intensive and expensive clearance interventions. This area reduction process has accelerated the intrusive searching required because there is less ground to cover, saving substantial time and human resources normally required by conventional clearance methods.
Taking advantage of the testing and evaluation results from Trieu Trach site, the team is now working at a 23-hectare Vung Ha site at the request of the local government which asked for support in its expansion plans for Quang Tri Township. Started in June 2009, despite unfavorable weather conditions, the team has completed a total of 11 ha and found and destroyed 35 items of munitions, mostly large caliber artillery shells buried at depth of 1 to 2 meters. Matute and the team are very optimistic that completion of that clearance and handover of the site will occur before the end of this year.
In parallel with these clearance operations, the team is also focusing on ensuring public safety by establishing a UXO bin system at 26 scrap metal yards for quarantining UXOs accidentally mixed in with scrap heaps. Safely separating the UXO prevents risks for the local children and adults who live nearby these metal yards. Since April 2008, over 2,000 items of UXO have been collected and safely destroyed by the team.
“We all feel very happy today to receive certificates which we consider an accreditation to our work. This is a real motivation for me and my colleagues to strive for our best in helping Project RENEW fulfill the mission to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by explosive remnants of war in Quang Tri Province,” said Mai Van Viet, Team Leader.