Andy Smith
MIne-action specialist

Training to become a deminer

Every year I am asked how to get into demining. Enquiries come from a broad range of people - from idealistic youngsters to retired civil servants. I generally explain to them that they cannot be deminers because the costs would be too high (insurance alone) and because there are plenty of locals who want hands-on jobs. I encourage some to volunteer as office support or logistics staff, fund-raisers and publicity agents. But many still really want to be a deminer.

In my day, all you had to do was be in the right place at the right time, and an element of that still applies for support staff. But in those days there was nowhere for anyone to get good preparatory training. For those who can afford it, courses providing preparatory or extended training are now in place. The Level 3 training is designed to take people to probationary field management level and could suit those who want to be useful to an established demining organisation.

But no one offers “Zero to Hero” training, because no one wants another dead hero. A Level 3 qualification does not mean that the holder knows what they are doing. At best it means that they have a good foundation on which to continue a learning curve. There are examples of recent EOD Level 3 graduates who thought they knew it all in the accident database. The courses may be good but they are only the foundation, not the safe structure that only experience can build onto that foundation.

Whatever I think, a Level 3 EOD Certificate (recommended in IMAS) is increasingly a requirement when applying for jobs. To help one recent newcomer, I checked what was available and found that EOD Level 3 training was available from some sources that might be worthwhile, listed below. Course content varies, as does duration.

I visited the MAT Kosovo training centre (see below) in May/June 2017 during one of their EOD 3 courses at which there were students from half a dozen countries. Their selection procedure and previous EOD 2 requirement provided an effective baseline that allowed them to cover a truly impressive syllabus in a three week EOD 3 course. Better still, the fact that not everyone got through the course proved that they really do insist on a standard being met before issuing a certificate (and the certicficates list what has been covered). I am notoriously hard to please, but I was impressed. Its not cheap and the students have to work hard, but it looked to me like real value for money. If you are a novice, you will have to do the EOD 2 course first - which is as it should be. Be aware, this is not only about EOD skills - the preparation to be an effective HMA team member and a team leader is just as important...

MAT Kosovo (PCM Group) EOD & ERW Training Establishment, formerly MAT Mondial, Kosovo,
This one will take people from IMAS EOD Level 1+2 (called the Field Operator (FO)/ EOD L2 course) to L3 and L3+, also C-IED. If you can prove relevant experience, you can bypass EOD 1+2 and be accepted on the IMAS EOD Level 3 course. They also offer training in MRE/ CL, QMS, C-IED & Search, HEAT, PSSSM/ Ammunition Management & ERW Risk Management. Although this is a dedicated English language training facility, bespoke courses in other languages can be arranged (taking longer to allow for translation). Their training centre is residential and trainees are helped with immigration and visas so the courses should be accessible to all nationalities. They collect trainees from the airport on arrival and try to make being in Kosovo easy for those unaccustomed to international travel.

The courses have international accreditation, including those courses designed to meet career-change needs. Duration varies with FO/ EOD L2, L3 & L3+ courses averaging three intense weeks, while specialist courses such as C-IED & Search are a bit shorter. (If that sounds too short, well, it does rather depend how intense it all is and where trainees are starting from.)

The training centre is in Peja in the west of Kosovo in a site that allows them to emphasise the practical side of training. They have access to extensive field areas (some realistically battle-ruined) and the training is heavy with practical exercises. The student accommodation is well equipped and the whole thing seems very well organised and run. Used by UNOPS, ICRC, Commercial Agencies, various INGOs and those wishing to break into a career in HMA, their certification appears to be well respected, so well worth having. MAT Kosovo is commercial - but really does seem intent on giving value for money and meeting the end-users' needs. Course fees are all-inclusive, covering airport collection, training, food and accommodation. Prices on application.

Contact: Ben Remfrey, MBE, Managing Director, or for more background, write to information.

DCA Humanitarian Mine Action  
A four week EOD 3 course conducted with Danish armed forces, they hold an English Language course annually and can take outsiders who meet their selection criteria. Generally you would need to have worked in a relevant area. The involvement of a working demining NGO ensures that course content is based on field realities. Price includes self catering accommodation: cost on application.

To apply for next year’s course, contact M. J. Pavey (Fred), EOD Course Leader. If Fred has left. just contact DCA.

MECHEM (Denel Land Systems)
Offer a three week Level 1 EOD course and a four week EOD 2/3 course held in RSA or other places to meet demand. They have courses near Pretoria in RSA during 2015. Flexible entry requirements exclude anyone with a criminal record, so it looks like they will take anyone who is bright and fit, but you cannot do Level 2/3 unless you start with Level 1. (If you have hands on demining experience, I think that would be negotiable.) 2015 costs in Rand were Level 1 at 15k and Level 2/3 40k, but that excludes accommodation (which is available locally). Conducted by one of the longest lasting commercials in demining, their course curricula look okay.

To check on course timings and other details, contact their training manager: Tallies (Theo) Taljaard.

Centre de formation au déminage humanitaire, CPADD, 
A French language EOD 3 course. This is usually restricted to trainees who have already got EOD 2 but each application is considered on merit so those with relevant experience should still apply. I can’t say much about it because my French is not good enough, but it sounds okay. Cost was 2,700 Euros in 2015 (also covering food and accommodation), paid in advance.

Contact Lionel Jean, Course director of CPADD.
The Centre for Homeland Security, Talbot Hall, Heythrop Park, Enstone, Oxon, OX7 5UE. Tel: + 44 (0) 1608 678382  |Mobile:  +44 (0) 7825 083985 or email Gordon at . I know nothing much about this one, but they do use some of my stuff in their courses.

To anyone applying, good luck and stay safe.