MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (NNS) -- Uruguayan military and emergency services personnel completed three weeks of explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) training hosted by Maritime Civilian Affairs and Security Training Command (MCAST) Navy master EOD technicians Nov. 23.
The military personnel in the class were from the Uruguayan army EOD unit known as the "Brigada de Explosivos" or Explosives Brigade, and the training consisted of explosives detection, disarmament, and detonation.
Lt. Col. Marc Saphir is the army section chief at the Office for Defense Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Montevideo, Uruguay, and is in charge of organizing U.S. military training.
"This training was different though because it was the first time U.S. EOD trainers have trained in Uruguay," said. "I believe the main reason why we're training together is because interoperability is very important," said Saphir.
He said not only is interoperability among nations important, but also equally important is interoperability among a nation's own forces and resources. In this case, the training focused on multiple military and civilian units working together.
"The reason we have the EOD team here working with the Uruguayan army EOD team, the Uruguayan police who work in explosives and explosive forensics, and also the firefighters, is so it's an interagency effort," Saphir said.
In Uruguay, only the army can directly work on the removal and disarmament of bombs, improvised explosive devices (IED), and other explosives; however, in an urban environment it's the police or fire department that are called as the first responders.
Now that a few of the Uruguayan emergency services agencies have been exposed to the typical procedures involved in EOD work, the goal is for them to better understand and share with their counterparts what roles to play to resolve explosives problems with the military.
"If there is an emergency that involves some sort of explosive device here, working together between the army, the police and the firefighters, they could work together to successfully identify and disarm it," Saphir said.
Saphir said in addition to applying the training locally and uniformly across all of the various agencies who work together to resolve explosives problems, the Uruguayan army and even the police could put the training to use abroad.
"The Uruguayan forces do a lot of peacekeeping missions," Saphir said. "Per capita, they're the largest contingent of peacekeepers in the world.
"When the Uruguayan army deploys to places like the Congo, they could run across improvised explosive devices or more likely mines. So this training will help them identify, and if need be, disarm any kind of explosive; whether it be a mine or improvised explosive device," Saphir said.
Senior Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EWS) Chad L. Harris, a master EOD technician from Green Bay, Wis., attached to Explosive Ordinance Disposal Mobile Unit 12, said the training was divided into two courses: a counter IED course and a post-blast investigation course.
Although the team of Navy EOD technicians facilitated the courses, Harris said they learned more while training the Uruguayan forces.
"Any training you can get when you're EOD, whether it's in Uruguay, whether it's in America, wherever you are, it betters you as an EOD technician," Harris said. "You're always looking to train and learn new tactics; new techniques to make your job easier. They have taught us as well, the things that they have seen through their training, so it's definitely a two-way street. We're learning from them and they're learning from us."
Uruguayan army Capt. Claudio Suarez, an EOD officer attached to the Explosives Brigade agreed with Harris.
"When you interchange experience it's always good for everyone," Suarez said. "I'm happy to have them here so they can give us their experience, and we can give them our experience in the South American environment."
Saphir said coordinating a training mission with so many different agencies and resources involved is not an easy task, but all the phone calls, paperwork, planning, and meetings are worth it when it all comes together.
"This training is a good example of interoperability at the highest levels of government," Saphir said. "We had U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Defense agencies working together with Uruguayan Ministry of Interior and Uruguayan Department of Defense agencies to make this training happen."
The main Department of Defense component behind the planning and coordination of the training in Uruguay was the MCAST command. MCAST sought out EOD subject matter experts (SMEs) from the fleet for the Uruguay training mission and made all of the unit level contacts and coordination.
Lt. Tim Teti, MCAST Security Force Assistance (SFA) Mobile Training Team (MTT) leader and EOD officer, hand selected the EOD technicians who taught the courses in Uruguay.
"We brought in trainers from their subject matter expertise areas since we don't house all of those professionals at the MCAST Command," Teti said. "That's part of MCAST's charter; to be able to reach out into the fleet and draw that expertise out when we conduct these types of missions."
Teti said MCAST deploys MTTs of Sailors who go into a country, train the trainers and leave them with the capability to train themselves, enabling that country to be more self-sufficient and stable.
MCAST SFA detachments collaborate with foreign militaries in support of security cooperation and foreign internal defense missions in Africa, Central and South America, the Caribbean, the Pacific and Southeast Asia.
The cooperative engagements include topics such as small boat operations and tactics; maritime combat operations; weapons handling; anti-terrorism and force protection; maintenance and construction; and officer and non-commissioned officer professional development and leadership.
This training is one of many exchanges planned in the coming years between MCAST and the U.S. Navy's military and civilian strategic partners in Uruguay.
For more information about the MCAST command, visit www.mcast.navy.mil or www.facebook.com/pages/Maritime-Civil-Affairs-and-Security-Training-MCAST-Command/165833618708?ref=nf.
For more news from Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/MCAST/.