Four Royal Navy bomb disposal experts from the Fleet Diving Squadron based at Horsea Island, Portsmouth, are heading to Afghanistan in a few weeks to help deal with the improvised explosive device threat.
Predominantly based at Camp Bastion, the quartet of divers will work in support of the British Army’s 61 Field Squadron (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) and other coalition forces.
They will deploy to forward operating bases within Helmand province from where they will carry out offensive searches and clearance of insurgent-laid improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and conventional munitions, and will accompany regular foot patrols.
They will also train the Afghan National Army in explosive ordnance recognition and search and disposal skills.
Heading the team is Lieutenant Chris Stephenson who is joined by Leading Seaman (Diver) Jason Webb, Able Seaman (Diver) Rod Mackenzie and Able Seaman (Diver) Mark Humberstone.
They have just completed six months of training with 61 Field Squadron, culminating in a major exercise on Salisbury Plain.
Lieutenant Stephenson said:
“I am looking forward to getting out there and getting on with the job. The biggest challenges will be the environment and the constant threat of IEDs – it’s quite different to how we would work normally.
“Usually I’m here running a dive team for the Royal Navy and out there I’m part of a coalition force in Afghanistan.
“We prepared for this tour with a six-month intensive course with the Army, which mainly taught us infantry skills, and we worked on our knowledge of the different types of IEDs that are out there.
“We constantly adapt our way of working because things change out in theatre, in terms of the type of IEDs they use, and so then we adapt our procedures here so we are constantly up-to-date.”
The Royal Navy Diving Branch is a small specialisation of the Mine Warfare Branch, dedicated to a wide range of underwater diving tasks and more specifically to mine and ordnance disposal underwater.