KAMPONG CHHNANG, Kingdom of Cambodia — Signs of conflict, memories and dangers still haunt areas of Cambodia. Explosive remnants of wars from decades ago buried in rice and cashew fields or at construction sites continue to represent a threat to the people.
“The country side of Cambodia is beautiful,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Derek Williams, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense officer with III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Its citizens and tourists should be able to share in the beauty knowing they are safe from harm.”
The Humanitarian Mine Action program, a U.S. government program, allows U.S. service members to work alongside members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces to make Cambodia safer. The program focuses on assisting selected countries in relieving human suffering and in developing an indigenous mine action capability to help with explosive remnants of war.
“We go to countries that have problems with ERW and we help train their forces to take care the problem,” said Gunnery Sgt. Matthew L. Lentz, the HMA team leader with Explosive Ordinance Disposal Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III MEF.
U.S. Marine Corps EOD technicians and CBRN specialists from III MEF deployed to the Kingdom of Cambodia, Oct. 14, 2015, to train the Cambodian Mine Action Center and RCAF National Authority of Chemical Weapons in support of the HMA program.
“By conducting this training, we can see what the future has in store [by improving their] ability to respond to those internal threats,” said Williams, from Lansing, Michigan.
The training event will be conducted over the course of several months in three phases. The initial phase from Oct. 19 to Nov. 6, 2015, focused on Marine EOD and CBRN instructors training CMAC and NACW students.
EOD training will develop and enhance CMAC’s basic skills, including first aid, casualty evacuation procedures, explosive ordnance recognition, safe handling, and disposal methods.
CBRN training will focus on developing NACW on personal protective equipment, decontamination techniques, response team structure and responsibilities, and conducting case studies of historical CBRN events.
“Having completed [phase one] training, and looking to build on this training in phase two, I can see these trainees will be able to respond to internal threats,” said Williams.
Phase two, starting Jan. 25, 2016, will focus on developing student’s ability to instruct other students or “train the trainer.”
“We’re going to teach them how to be successful in teaching their own curriculum,” said Lentz, from Sheridan, Wyoming.
Phase three, scheduled for Apr. 20, 2016, will select a group of students from the phase one and two classes to be instructors. Marines will observe the new instructors as they teach a new class of students.
“It’s a crawl, walk, run phase as far as developing instructors,” said Lentz. “We’re trying to ensure we have good instructors that we have confidence in before we start progressing.”
Marines exchange the best tactics and techniques, specifically in handling and disposing ERW, during training with CMAC and NACW, said Williams.
“I would love to say thank you to the U.S. Marines for coming to be a part of this to improve our knowledge and our ability [to properly deal with explosives], as it will benefit and protect our whole country,” said Lt. Col. Dim Dawn with the Department of Administration, Personnel, Finance and Logistics, NACW, RCAF.
The newly learned tactics and techniques will allow Cambodia to continue clearing operations around the area to safely identify, handle, transport and dispose ERW.
“I believe that this cooperation between Cambodia and the U.S. can make Cambodia a safer place for its citizens,” said Williams. “This training provides the opportunity to further strengthen the bond between our nations and will layout plans for future opportunities of cooperation.”