The EOD Divers’ operational capability is improving – the goal is NATO compatibility
Comparing the Finnish Navy’s EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Divers to Swiss folding knifes is not far-fetched. EOD Divers form a versatile asset that is an important part of Coastal Fleet’s mine countermeasures capability at sea. During the fall, the operational capability of this resource has been developed both in terms of NATO compatibility and also by sharpening the skills of the reservists of the Katanpää-class mine countermeasures vessels in a refresher training exercise.
According to a Commander Tomas Skurdenis, who works at NATO Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM), EOD Divers represent a special kind of capacity:
- EOD teams have always been somehow different and not really conventional force in terms of fighting skills, mind-set and the way of solving the puzzles, the Commander Skurdenis describes.
- They are like Swiss folding knifes. Multipurpose by design and fits in to your smallest pocket. EOD teams might be tasked on land, at sea and in harbor, moreover, they are trained to fight on the front line and even in a contaminated environment. This kind of capability enables maritime commanders on different levels to plan and run operations much faster and safer. Teams are and will be used to ensure safety of maritime units at sea and in harbor.
The Commander Skurdenis’ task as an evaluation director was to lead the evaluation that was carried out in Finland between August and September. Aim of the evaluation was to review the compatibility of the Finnish Navy’s EOD teams with the activities of NATO forces. The final results of the evaluation are not yet available but the Commander Skurdenis describes his first impression as follows:
- As for my personal first impression, I had a chance to talk to separate team members and had a chance to look at the equipment they are using, I am pretty sure that this team is a highly motivated group of good friends which is ready to accomplish their tasks and even more.
But again, it is only my personal feeling. Evaluation is not about your personal feelings
- Group of subject matter experts are brought together to evaluate whether team is ready to accomplish NATO tasks in accordance with NATO requirements and regulations. It will take four long hard working days to clarify whether the team meets all requirements and what are deficiencies, if at all, Skurdenis emphasizes.
Evaluation covers for example personal skills of the team members, tactics of the team applied during the exercise and equipment which they are using to fulfill their mission. Different sub-areas form an ensemble based on which the team’s NATO compatibility will be determined.
The Commander Skurdenis (picture) considers the normal working conditions of the Finnish EOD Divers, such as their experience in operating in Finland’s territorial waters, to be useful for NATO:
- Divers of the northern countries are more prepared to operate in more severe weather conditions like “freezing waters” thus making Finnish EOD team even more specialized for niche operations amongst other NATO members.
The evaluation of the Finnish Navy’s EOD Divers was done in Upinniemi. The EOD team mainly consisted of skilled and highly motivated reservists. The evaluation contributes both to the development of the Finnish Navy's mine countermeasures capability and diver capability and enables smooth cooperation between these assets and international partners.
An integral part of maritime mine countermeasures
After the evaluation, the EOD Divers of the Finnish Navy’s reserve were also trained for their tasks in September and October. In a two-week exercise, carried out by the Coastal Fleet’s 4th Mine Countermeasures Squadron, the reservists of the Kataanpää-class vessels revised the EOD practices from the mine countermeasure vessel Purunpää. On the vessel, they also trained for naval service and deckhand duties.
- EOD Divers are an integral part of maritime mine countermeasures capability. Divers are especially needed in the areas where the use of other mine countermeasures is difficult, such as in harbors and near the harbors, says the commander of the 4th Mine Countermeasures Squadron, Commander Henri Kummala.
The tasks are versatile. The EOD Divers are used to seek, classify and identify mines. If needed, they also have the ability to deactivate the mines. The primary use of EOD Divers is in the water and under the surface, but they have the training and ability to clear explosives also in the immediate vicinity of the dock area on land. The equipment of the EOD Divers’, including their diving gear, is designed to suit the specific nature of the tasks the divers perform.
- In ship operations, divers are also used to check the bottoms of the ships, e.g. to remove explosives attached to the bottom and to make them harmless. They can also carry out support tasks, for example, removing and attaching the underwater frame structures of ships or fins, Kummala describes and adds: - They can also move mines or other underwater objects to a place where they can be detonated if necessary.
Active training of the EOD Divers ensures that the Coastal Fleet’s mine countermeasures capabilities are all set both on the surface and under the surface.
All the pictures by Finnish Defence Forces.