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 hands-on 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. In those days there was nowhere for anyone to get good preparatory training anyway, but today (for those who can afford it) courses providing preparatory or extended training are available. 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. An EOD 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 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 may think of the inadequacy of paper qualificatuions, a Level 3 EOD Certificate (recommended in IMAS) is increasingly a requirement when applying for jobs. The organisations listed below offer it - and perhaps some others: search online, but beware any course that is a direct copy of military training or too cheap to be good.

MAT Kosovo (PCM Group) EOD & ERW Training Establishment, formerly MAT Mondial, Kosovo, 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 certificates list the topics that have been covered). I am notoriously hard to please, but I was impressed. It's 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 skills required of an effective HMA team member and a team leader are much broader than EOD. The organisation offers specialist and bespoke training too.

Although this is a dedicated English language training facility, bespoke courses in other languages are often arranged (taking longer to allow for translation). Their main training centre is residential (in Kosovo) 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. In recent years, they have travelled to conduct training in the working area at the customer's convenience.

The courses have international accreditation, including those courses designed to meet career-change needs. Duration varies with separate 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.)

Their main 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. Their January 2019 brochure is here.

Contact: Ben Remfrey, the Managing Director. [No, I don't work there, but I would go there to fill some holes in my knowledge if I had the time and money.]

MECHEM (Denel Land Systems)
I have had no contact with this lot for a while but they may still 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. Entry requirements exclude anyone with a criminal record, but it looks like they will take anyone else who is bright and fit. 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.) Costs exclude accommodation (which is available locally). Conducted by one of the longest lasting commercials in demining, their course curricula look okay.
Contact MECHEM via their website.
The Centre for Homeland Security, Talbot Hall, Heythrop Park, Enstone, Oxon, OX7 5UE. Tel: + 44 (0) 1608 678382  |Mobile:  +44 (0) 7825 083985 or find an email at their website. I know little about this one, but they do use some of my stuff in their courses and I met a trainer at a 2018 event and he was impressive.

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 the directeur at CPADD, of via their website.

To anyone applying, good luck and stay safe.