An improvised explosive device is detonated at the Reception, Staging, Onward movement and Integration course at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. The course was designed to prepare troops for last minute reminders before going into real life combat situations. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Monique LaRouche
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — The counter improvised explosive device course, which is part of Reception, Staging, Onward movement and Integration, is more than just a refresher, it is a safety net for all who deploy to Regional Command Southwest.
The eight-hour CIED course is given daily on Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, and it prepares service members who recently arrived in country, a last chance to get real experience.
The training is unique in its own way because it allows the students to be creative with combat scenarios and allows new members to ask questions from Marines who just got back from the fight.
An American man has been given a new face, teeth, tongue and jaw in what his surgeons say is the most extensive facial transplant ever performed.
Richard Lee Norris, 37, has spent the past 15 years living as a recluse, wearing a mask to hide the severe injuries he received from a near-fatal gun accident.
Since then, he has had multiple life-saving and reconstructive surgeries but none could repair him to the extent where he felt he could return to society. He wore a prosthetic nose and a mask even when entering hospital for the transplant.
The surgery is the culmination of 10 years of research funded by the Department of Defence’s Office of Naval Research and will serve as a model for helping war veterans injured by improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan.
SIRTE, Libya, March 27 (UPI) — Residents in the Libyan city of Sirte are searching abandoned tanks at their own risk while children are playing with unexploded munitions, the ICRC said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said last year’s war in Libya left “huge quantities” of unexploded shells, mines and other munitions. People searching for scrap metal are at risk of detonating ammunition on abandoned tanks while children are attracted to bright colors painted on unexploded munitions.
The Libyan government under Moammar Gadhafi had refused to join international treaties regarding land mines. The transitional government, which took control last year during a NATO-led offensive, has pledged to destroy the mines in its arsenals.
Human Rights Watch had said the use of land mines by Gadhafi loyalists last year was “extensive.”
The ICRC said Sirte was hit hard during the fighting last year. Unexploded ordnance, the aid agency said, are “all over the city” and outlying farmlands.
Most of the victims injured by the abandoned ordnance, said Jennifer Reeves, an official for the ICRC, are under the age of 22.
Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, to be observed on 4 April:
United Nations mine action programmes make an invaluable contribution to post-conflict recovery, humanitarian relief efforts, peace operations and development initiatives. They prevent landmines and other explosive ordnance from causing further indiscriminate harm long after conflicts have ended, and help to transform danger zones into productive land. Mine action sets communities on course towards lasting stability.
In Libya, mine action personnel have responded to the threat posed by landmines, cluster munitions and the lack of secure ammunition storage areas. Thousands of explosive remnants of war have been secured or cleared from schools, roads or residential areas, and tens of thousands of people have received risk education.
On 4 April 2012, the New Zealand Campaign Against Landmines (CALM) will kick off the first of dozens of “Lend Your Leg” actions events against landmines to be held around the world on the International Day for Mine Action and Mine Awareness.
CALM is organizing to hold a ‘roll-up’ action at 1.00pm local time [01.00 GMT] on the grounds of Parliament Buildings with interested Members of Parliament, including Hon. Phil Goff, Hon. Maryan Street, Dr. Paul Hutchison, Kennedy Graham, and Iain Lees-Galloway. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Murray McCully has been invited to participate.
The Lend Your Leg action is strikingly simple. On 4 April, people all over the world are rolling up their trouser legs in solidarity with landmine survivors and in support of the call for a mine-free world, achieved through the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. In New Zealand, CALM is calling on the New Zealand government to stand strong on disarmament by promoting the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.
“We want to congratulate Jordan for this achievement, and especially Prince Mired for his remarkable leadership and tireless efforts over the years. Jordan has been a true champion of the Mine Ban Treaty and its national mine action programme is exemplary and one that many other countries – not least Jordan’s neighbours in the region – should draw good practice from,” said Kasia Derlicka, ICBL Director.
SIMAS field visit, Part 2… Wherein Katie blows things up
Our trip to the mine field [view previous post] was just the beginning of our field visit on Friday. We make a quick stop at a mechanical demining site along the banks of the Nile. Until recently, SIMAS lacked sufficient resources to outfit and maintain a mechanical demining team. The equipment allows them to clear land more rapidly and will be a critical component in clearing dangerous areas before the rainy season suspends operations.
We travel 2 kilometers southeast to the roadside control point for the unexploded-ordnance detonation site. Although deminers must blow up mines and UXO sometimes in situ (in place), they greatly prefer moving the weapons off-site for a controlled detonation.
In a pit, set back safely from the road, the UXO team placed sandbags over eight mortars and primed them with explosives. Zlatko handled weapons destruction in the aftermath of the Bosnian war. Every second day, the teams would have collected more than two tons of explosives. Our task would be significantly smaller: 25 kilograms in eight mortars.
Then the fun began: The field supervisor unwound det cord and set the charge. Our group took cover behind a small hut constructed with tree limbs and sandbags. Tradition holds that the sitting HD Fellow usually gets the honor of setting off the demo, so Katie got some quick instructions and the countdown began. Five… four… two… one… the field supervisor counted down into his walkie talkie, the numbers echoing out of everyone’s radios behind the hut. Zero… fire…
BOOM. Katie screamed and then giggled. The rest of us laughed as debris, carried by the explosion and wind, fell nearby. Just like that, we were finished.
SIMAS is an amazing success story in a landscape of frustrated efforts. The first nongovernmental organization in South Sudan to receive international accreditation for its demining teams, SIMAS receives funding and support from the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA), the United Nations and other organizations. It partners with UNICEF to deliver mine-risk education and can conduct manual and mechanical clearance as well as UXO spot clearance.
I have a keen interest in resource development for indigenous NGOs, so our conversation back at SIMAS headquarters during lunch and after was fascinating. The organization has an engaged and well respected board that has helped SIMAS establish strategic objectives. Jonas, the director, said that they are constantly asking, “If international organizations withdraw, where are we going to be?”
To help plan for this, SIMAS develops its teams leaders and office personnel. Should funding become available, SIMAS deminers are accredited to high enough levels that operations can rapidly expand. The organization has also received superlative remarks on all three of its independent audits, building confidence for donor countries and organizations.
Plans are also in the works to build a sustainable infrastructure into the HQ compound. Solar panels on an accommodation building and other improvements could mean SIMAS no longer has to buy fuel to run generators and other equipment, and the accommodation block would reduce costs and increase income.
I will return to CISR and JMU with a head full of ideas on possible collaboration with this amazing organization. As a student of NGOs, I am perhaps most excited about what more I can learn from Jonas and his team.
It is Saturday evening as I write in Juba, and a number of soccer (yes, soccer—they have not won me over to football just yet) matches are on the hotel bar’s TVs. We have a BBQ scheduled at Embassy-Juba later tonight before heading to field sites in Yei tomorrow morning. I will update as I can.
Geary Cox II (’06, ’08M, ’15P) is project manager and program coordinator at CISR. He joined the staff as an Editorial Assistant to the Journal of ERW and Mine Action in March 2005. He holds a Master of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Arts in English and political science, both from James Madison University. He is pursuing his doctorate in nonprofit leadership at JMU’s School of Strategic Leadership.
Harrisonburg,VA (March 23, 2012) – The Center for International Stabilization and Recovery at James Madison University announced Lindsay Aldrich as the 2012-2013 recipient of the Frasure-Kruzel-Drew Humanitarian Demining Fellowship sponsored by U.S. Department of State’s Office of Weapons and Removal and Abatement in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. The Fellowship raises awareness about landmine contamination around the world, and allows the recipient to assist program managers with conventional weapons destruction programs in impacted countries, write press releases and articles for various publications, assist with public outreach activities, and travel on policy assessment visits.
Originally from Harrisonburg, Virginia, Aldrich will graduate this summer with a Master of Public Administration degree with a concentration in Public and Nonprofit Management. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ashland University, and currently works as the Engagement Coordinator in the Office of Outreach & Engagement at JMU. Aldrich brings considerable work experience as well as her academic training to the Fellowship position. She has great personal interest in the landmine issue through her travel and family experiences.
Aldrich’s interest in global demining grew when she learned that one of the leading centers for global humanitarian demining was in her hometown. “I recognized the potential that might hold for a local public administration student interested in working with international demining programs.” She applied to the Fellowship after learning about it through a post on the Policy and Administration Student Organization Facebook page, and felt that the Fellowship would combine her academic interest and programmatic work experience.
The Fellowship was established in 1999 to raise awareness of landmine contamination around the world and U.S. Government efforts to address the problem. It is named in honor of Ambassador Robert C. Frasure, Dr. Joseph J. Kruzel and Colonel Samuel Nelson Drew who lost their lives in an August 1995 automobile accident in Bosnia and Herzegovina while on a mission to help end the conflict there. Aldrich will be the 21st recipient of this Fellowship. “Being selected to serve as the next Frasure-Kruzel-Drew Fellow is a great honor,” says Aldrich. “I am looking forward to the incredible opportunity to learn through this Fellowship, while also practically applying my education, work experience, and previous international humanitarian travel to further the cause of humanitarian demining around the world.”
CISR was founded at JMU in 1996 as the Mine Action Information Center and became CISR in 2008. The Center for International Stabilization and Recovery helps communities affected by conflict and trauma through innovative and reliable research, training, information exchange, and direct services.
The Office of Disability Services and the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery welcome Judith E. Heumann as the Keynote Speaker. Ms. Heumann is an internationally recognized leader in the disability community and a lifelong civil rights advocate for disadvantaged people. She has been appointed Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State.
My colleague, Trauma Rehabilitation Specialist, Cameron Macauley from the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery (CISR) at James Madison University, and I had the good fortune to participate in a mass fitting for amputees in Tam Ky, Vietnam.When we arrived, some 200 men and women were awaiting their turns to have plaster casts made which would then be used to manufacture new, durable and very comfortable prostheses. They removed their old prostheses and I was astonished by these ancient, hand-made artificial legs constructed of wood, rubber, wire and cloth. Most of them had broken and had been repaired numerous times.
In this Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011 file photo, Somalis carry a wounded man at the scene of a suicide explosion which killed more than 100 people in Mogadishu, Somalia. The Pentagon’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) says that bomb attacks in Nigeria, Kenya and Somalia became more frequent and deadly in 2011 as al-Qaida-affiliated terror groups used more sophisticated devices to kill more people with each explosion. (AP Photo/Mohamed Sheikh Nor, File)
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Bomb attacks in Nigeria, Kenya and Somalia rose in 2011 as al-Qaida-affiliated terror groups used more sophisticated devices to kill more people with each explosion, the Pentagon’s anti-IED unit said.
Nigeria saw a nearly fourfold jump in the number of improvised explosive device incidents last year, while Kenya saw an 86 percent increase, according to the unit. Underscoring the threat, both nations saw deadly blasts last weekend: A car bomb attack on a church during Mass in Nigeria and grenades thrown at Kenyans as they waited at a crowded bus stop.
Militants last year began using a deadlier type of bomb known as a shaped charge for the first time in both Somalia and Nigeria, John Myrick, a U.S. military bomb expert told The Associated Press. Advanced bomb-makers use shaped charges to increase the force of a bomb so that it can penetrate armor.
Mahmoud Balhas is a 55 year old tobacco farmer from the village of Qana in South Lebanon. For more than two years, Mahmoud and his family have been using a land that turned out to be highly contaminated with cluster munitions.
When Mahmoud rented this land in 2008 to use for tobacco planting, he knew that it was contaminated with cluster munitions. Yet the need for income forced him to take the risk and, with a misconception that fire destroys all cluster bombs, he set the land on fire. As there were numerous cluster bombs on the surface, explosions started going off around him and he had to throw himself away to escape.
“The explosions were heard all over the village and people thought I was dead when they saw me lying on the ground”, said Mahmoud. “I escaped miraculously but I thought that the problem was solved. I was sure that the explosions destroyed all the cluster bombs in the land so we started using it”.
BRUSSELS — The ousted Libyan government of Col. Moammar Ghadafi deployed cluster bombs and landmines against civilians, the U.N. Human Rights Council said in a report on international investigations into Libya’s human rights record.
Because unexploded cluster bombs are causing civilian casualties, a global cluster munitions pact is now in place to deter and reduce such casualties. Human rights groups have long accused Libya of using cluster bombs against civilians. But this is the first time that the United Nations has formally recognized the use of cluster bombs in Libya, which is not party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
The International Commission of Inquiry on Libya said after looking into alleged violations of international human rights law in the country that cluster bombs caused serious damage to ordinary civilians.
STOCKHOLM — Syria imported nearly six times more weapons in 2007-2011 than in the previous five-year period, with Russia accounting for 72 percent of the arms supplies to President Bashar Assad’s regime, an international research institute said Monday.
The report on global arms transfers by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute highlighted how Moscow continues to provide Syria with weapons even as the U.S., the European Union and others impose arms embargoes due to the regime’s violent crackdown on protesters.
It did not specify the volume of weapons exports after the start of the uprising in 2011.
A Lancaster father and daughter break ground in simpler, cheaper land-mine sensors, using radar and sound waves.
Buried in a harmless-looking sand pit in Lancaster were a bunch of plastic devices designed with gruesome intent: to kill or maim anyone who steps on top of them.
They were land mines - in this case, filled with inert materials instead of explosives, but otherwise no different from millions of devices buried in war-torn regions around the world.
Yet Tim Bechtel could see them. He moved a cylinder-shaped device back and forth over the sand, emitting a steady stream of radio waves - radar - and bit by bit an image of the mines emerged on a nearby computer screen.
War photographer Giles Duley with his loving partner Jennie Robertson
It is an overcast morning and commuters are shuffling along the streets of London. In their midst a man walks tall, his keen eyes taking in life all around him, and there’s a smile on his face. Giles Duley is overjoyed to be alive.
After spending ten years photographing the stars of the music world, he had become disillusioned, put his belongings into storage and decided to do something ‘more worthwhile’. That meant roaming the globe, documenting the plight of refugees and the victims of war.
It was a decision that almost cost him his life. On February 7 last year, he was on patrol with American soldiers in Afghanistan when he stepped on a landmine, suffering terrible injuries that would make him a triple amputee, with just his right arm remaining.
U.S. weapon manufacturers feeling the wrath of arms-control activists
The Obama administration launched a review of landmine and cluster munitions treaties in 2009, but that process has been stalled and is unlikely to move forward during a presidential election year. “Moral pressure is effective,” Rutherford said.
U.S. production of air-launched weapons that are widely used by the Air Force and foreign allies might be in jeopardy as a result of a global advocacy campaign that targets manufacturers of military hardware.
Antiwar and arms-control groups over the past decade have homed in on landmines and cluster munitions, and are now also targeting armed drones as another category of weapons that should be banned because they harm and kill civilians.
The manufacturing of one of the U.S. military’s most widely used precision-guided munitions, the Sensor Fuzed Weapon, could be imperiled, industry sources said, because several multinational banks and insurance companies — under pressure from advocacy groups — have decided to no longer do business with producers of weapons that fall under the broad rubric of cluster munitions.
British troops are not being equipped with patrol vehicles designed with V-shaped hulls to deflect the blast of roadside bombs, or IEDs, such as that which last week destroyed the Warrior in Helmand.
The deaths of six young soldiers in Afghanistan were not just a tragedy – they were the result of a catastrophic political and military blunder. It is six years since I first began reporting here on how, first in Iraq, then in Afghanistan, our troops were not being equipped with patrol vehicles designed with V-shaped hulls to deflect the blast of roadside bombs, or IEDs, such as that which last week destroyed the Warrior in Helmand.
The first of these vehicles to become notorious was the Snatch Land Rover, 200 of which were sent to Iraq from Northern Ireland in 2003, with the approval of Sir Mike Jackson, then the head of the British Army.
Among the subsequent succession of fatal incidents involving Snatches was that which in 2005 killed three men, including Private Phillip Hewitt. After I first wrote about this, on June 18 2006, our generous readers contributed £7,000 to enable his mother Sue Smith and others to bring a successful High Court action against the Ministry of Defence. Their only aim was to publicise how indefensible it was to send troops on patrol in vehicles giving no protection against IEDs.
Cpl. Kevin Dubois, who lost his legs up to the hip in an IED attack, practices walking on prosthetic legs in the C5 department for wounded warriors at San Diego Naval Medical Center in November 2011. Courtesy of Kevin Dubois
WASHINGTON — In late July last year, Marine Cpl. Kevin Dubois headed out to take the place of another Marine wounded while guarding a hastily setup landing zone near Sangin, a Taliban hotbed in southern Afghanistan.
Improvised explosive devices had taken a heavy toll all year, with Marines on dismounted patrols accounting for a disproportionate number of casualties. The guy that Dubois, a 25-year-old scout sniper, was sent to replace had stepped on a faulty homemade land mine.
Most of the explosive charge failed to ignite, but it still popped with enough force to injure a foot.
Men craft coffins for some of the more than 200 people killed by explosions at a munitions depot, in Brazzaville, Congo Thursday, March 8, 2012. Many of the at least 246 victims of last weekend’s deadly arms depot blasts in the Republic of Congo’s capital will be buried Sunday in a mass funeral, state radio reported Thursday. STR / AP Photo
BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo — Morgue workers hurried to finish washing the bodies of hundreds of people killed in last week’s explosion at a Congo army base ahead of the their state funeral Sunday, which will mark the single largest loss of life in this Central African nation.
At least 246 people died one week ago when an arms depot inside a military barracks went up in flames, setting off a lethal downpour of grenades, mortars and shells.
The detonation flattened buildings, including churches, schools, dormitories and businesses, crushing scores of people. Only 168 of the bodies have been identified so far, according to morgue records, and the government ordered them to be laid to rest in identical coffins in order to convey the national character of the loss.
SPLA troops in South Sudan. Photo: IRIN/Hannah McNeish
12 March 2012 –
The Sudanese People’s Liberation Army of South Sudan (SPLA) today signed an agreement with the United Nations renewing its commitment to release all children within its ranks.
Since 2005, the SPLA has been listed on the UN Secretary-General’s list of parties to conflict who recruit and use children. Although the action plan represents a renewal of commitments made in 2009, the SPLA, as a national army, is signing for the first time. The agreement also requires that all militias that are being incorporated into the SPLA are child-free.
“This is an important day for South Sudan – the world’s newest country. Not only does this action plan ensure the Government’s commitment that the SPLA will have no children within its ranks, but all armed groups who have accepted amnesty with the Government must also release their children,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy.
Our work on Mine Action, Small Arms and Light Weapons Control is important for early recovery of disaster and conflict affected men and women. One million people have been killed or maimed by landmines in the last 30 years. The cost of lost productivity due to violence (not including formal conflicts) is estimated to be as high as USD 163 billion per year. Globally, cluster munitions have caused over 10,000 injuries and deaths, the vast majority of the victims being civilians concentrated in five countries: Laos, Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon.
The group effort to identify the mystery cluster bombs used in the war in Libya last year had to take a pause while I was at sea on another assignment, for a project in works on air power. But information continues to trickle in. Today, At War can catch you up and offer a fresh set of details.
A quick review: Last year, civilian deminers, a team of non-proliferation contractors working for the State Department and journalists from The New York Times all found small cluster munitions in Libya that had never been seen in the field before.
After a substantial effort behind scenes, the United Nations, several non-government organizations and a stable of explosive ordnance disposal specialists all agreed that they had come to a dead end. No one could offer a precise identification. What was this weapon? Where had it been manufactured? Who had shipped it to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s Libya, and when, and under what circumstances?
Update from CISR's Peer Support Training Workshop for People with Disabilities in Vietnam
"Our three-day CISR Peer Support Training Workshop for People with Disabilities in Vietnam started this morning with opening speeches by Cameron and me and the executive director of our Vietnamese partner, Association for the Empowerment of People with Disabilities (AEPD).
We planned to have 25 participants but there are over 35 who have been invited.
To better understand, what CISR is doing here…let me share two stories from this morning:
First, after receiving CISR hats, pens and bags, many of the survivors put on their CISR hats and wore them with pride.
Second, a beautiful, beautiful young women seated at the conference table introduced herself at Cameron’s request as he had asked everyone for self-introductions. She started crying when speaking. The room went silent. Other participants started getting teary eyed and cried. I asked one of our translators later, why. She replied that it was this women’s first time meeting other people in wheelchairs. You see, she had received peer support in her own home with LSN (APED is successor organization) years ago. This morning was the first time she met other people in wheelchairs talking about their problems and she was overcome with emotion to realize that there were others like her. It makes all this work so worthwhile.”
~ From CISR Director, Dr. Ken Rutherford, who is in Vietnam with CISR Trauma Rehabilitation Specialist, Cameron Macauley, conducting peer support training.
"There is even good WiFi in Battambang! I have very much enjoyed getting out of Phnom Penh and seeing some of the countryside today. It was a 5-hour drive but we stopped for lunch and I traveled with the VA officer from the Cambodia mine action office, a delightful man who is disabled from polio but has worked with many survivors over teh years and knows Ken well. We also visited a surgical hospital run by an NGO that has been working in this highly mine-affected province since 1998. And then we met with local provincial government staff who help set mine action plans for the province. Tomorrow we go to see field operations run by one of the mine action operators. We also will meet with a disability group before heading back to PP. Friday is packed with appointmnets but ends with a boat ride on the Mekong with the SMC and ERWTC graduates. That should be fun."
~ From CISR Associate Director, Suzanne Fiederlein, who is in Cambodia conducting refresher training for several graduates of CISR’s Senior Managers’ Course and the Explosive Remnants of War Training Course in Jordan.
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, has released a report titled, Capacity Development Matters:A practical guide. This Guide describes what capacity development is and how UNFPA is applying it in specific countries. The first chapter provides an overview of capacity development…
The Center for Stabilization and Recovery at James Madison University is proud to announce that one of our programs, Training of Illiterate and Semiliterate Women Ex-combatants in Burundi, was nominated and accepted as one of the top 25 candidates for the annual Women Deliver Awards in the Educational Initiatives category. It is No. 15 in the Educational Initiatives category.
Our program trained 25 female veterans of Burundi’s civil war, many of whom were illiterate or only semi-literate, to become peer-support workers. The workshop focused on important peer counseling skills, such as how active listening, empathy, and understanding can facilitate the recovery processes resulting from traumatic events. At the end of the workshop, each woman had gained a range of peer support skills to take back to her community.