EOD COE: Seeding Today–Harvesting Tomorrow 

by Lt. Col. Damian Piórko

Within the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Centre of Excellence (EOD COE), we believe that success does not happen overnight, it needs to be carefully nourished. There are always many obstacles to overcome, and you must always think long-term. This approach requires a clear common vision, adequate planning and timing, and fully dedicated personnel who will continue to work passionately when things do not go as planned.  

10th Anniversary of NATO EOD COE in Trenčín 

The establishment of NATO EOD COE is closely connected to year 2004, when Slovakia joined NATO. The same year, Slovakia at the National Armaments Directors Conference (NADC) adopted the role of the EOD NATO lead nation and committed to build the Centre of Excellence for EOD expertise. The EOD COE was founded in 2007 but has only been active as a NATO Centre of Excellence with a status of an International Military Organization since April 2011. Therefore, in 2021, we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the official foundation of the Center by the North Atlantic Council. 

EOD COE  Main  Projects 

Integration of the Exoskeleton in the Battlefield   The EOD COE was leading NATO’s project of the Integration of the Exoskeleton in the Battlefield (IEB). The IEB project was launched in 2017 in cooperation with the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCIA) and was financed by the NATO HQ through the Defense Against Terrorism Programme of Work (DAT PoW). This technology is a wearable device placed on the human body that moves in conjunction with the operator’s natural motions. The potential use of exoskeleton is broad: augmenting performance and achieving injury prevention for military, medical, logistics, industrial, first responders, etc. Our project is focused on the use of exoskeletons to support EOD operators, who need agility and freedom of mobility with their equipment. The Minimum Military Requirements for EOD exoskeletons were developed and the concept for utilizing the EOD exoskeleton in the battlefield completed. 

Exoskeleton – external device to support human performance

Exoskeleton being tested during project’s seminar.

NATO EOD Demonstrations and Trials Series  The NATO EOD Demonstration and Trials (D&T) is a biennial event for experts from NATO, partner armed forces and the defense industry, highlighting the latest EOD technology through live demonstrations, static exhibitions, seminars and conferences. The D&T series has proved to be very successful and an irreplaceable event, as it is sought after by SMEs, academia and industry. It provides an excellent opportunity to build new connections, exchange information, technical solutions and to find new ones based on our common interests. Despite some difficulties, caused by the pandemic and the countermeasures taken, the next event is planned to be held in Bratislava INCHEBA Expo area, from 13th to 14th October 2021. 

Opening ceremony during D&T

Live demo of the variety of the EOD equipment

EOD Workshop Series  The EOD Workshop Series are the second biggest EOD COE platform designed for EOD CoI. In harmony with the EOD COE vision “to be NATO´s catalyst for improvement and transformation of EOD,”, the Centre promotes networking, information sharing, and projects cooperation as the most efficient and powerful tools to support the overall objective.   Since 2015, these seminars have been opened for participation of SMEs from the Partnership for Peace countries as well. Additionally, it has proved to be an excellent platform, despite COVID -19, as this year’s seminars were successfully held online.  

Former Warsaw Pact Ammunition Handbooks 

The Former Warsaw Pact Ammunition Handbook (FWPAH) series, produced by the EOD COE, effectively assists NATO Partner Nations’ staff officers and NCOs, by providing reference and guidance to ammunition technicians, EOD troops and Combat engineers who are dealing with the conventional ammunition produced by the former Eastern Alliance in the days of the Cold War. Its aim is simply to assist in understanding of the construction of this type of munition and its safe disposal. 

Virtual and Extended Training and Combat Support Kit

In 2021, EOD COE decided to prepare for launching a new project, solely dedicated to developing an EOD/IEDD VR/XR Training and Combat Support Kit in cooperation with the European Defense Agency. The main goal of the project is to held reducing the time needed for the training of EOD technicians and bringing the EOD forces to the same knowledge level, while supporting them with a cloud based UXO database. The project will kickstart in 2022, and after the two phases are completed, we are planning to conclude it with the final product; which will be presented at the end of 2026.

Education and Training Activities  EOD COE’s Education and Training (E&T) department plays a unique role for the interest of NATO and the EOD community. The E&T department supports NATO’s efforts in Education, Training, Exercises and Evaluation (ETEE) policy. Besides enhancing NATO’s ETEE policy, the E&T department is continuously analyzing, designing, delivering, and evaluating education and training solutions for a diverse audience, including; EOD operators, EOD staff officers, ammunition technicians, first responders and all armed patrol, and much more. The NATO EOD COE contributes regularly, through its efforts, to Education and Individual Training (E&IT) and Collective Training and Exercises (CT&E). Education and Individual Training  The Centre offers a vast list of courses as showcased in Table 1. Moreover, E&IT details are also included in the record of the NATO Education and Training Catalogue and Partnership Real Information, Management and Exchange System. 

During 2011-2019, the Centre trained on average 130 graduates per year. Comparing the rate with previous years, 2020 was more than challenging for us. Due to COVID-19 constrains, EOD COE delivered only two iterations of the residential courses and the e-learning based EOD doctrine. This clearly had an impact on the delivery of the residential courses, and after some deliberations, in line with the EOD COE’s CoI requests, the Centre analyzed and offered E&IT learning tools and methods. Although the virtual offering of the available courses seems to satisfy delivering theoretical lectures, this does not apply to scenario-based learning. The structure of these specific courses disables the delivery of the courses in the virtual sphere.

Contribution to Collective Training and Exercises A significant effort of the Alliance CT&E is increasing the level of the deployable and suitable forces, such as the bolstered NATO Readiness Force (NRF), as well as achieving an effective force generation, and the application and use of the operational unit’s certification criteria. In order to comply with the Alliance’s goals in CT&E, the NATO EOD COE recognized the full EOD capabilities training spectra by hosting multinational exercises nationally, empowering NATO’s policy in CT&E, including the “Northern Challenge Ex” (2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019), “Arctic Specialist Ex” (2017), “Bison Counter Ex” (2016) and “Ardent Defender Ex” (2018, 2019).   Future Training Ambitions  The Centre has started to create a database of carefully selected, recorded theoretical lecturer that might be streamed for EOD staff officers in order to familiarize them with certain elements. It is also one way to initiate a change from the current NATO EOD SOT structure into the “virtual” world.

NATO EOD SOT/ EOD Coordination Centre- practical exercise 

At this moment, the ambition of the EOD COE in E&T is to identify more innovative technologies that could be used to deliver EOD knowledge and skills to our courses’ target audience without hampering quality of these courses.  In respect to the CT&E, the Centre focuses on the Northern Challenge, Toxic Valley and the Maritime EOD oriented exercises.  

NATO EOD  Doctrine  Contribution 

The NATO EOD Centre of Excellence operates as the custodian for the Allied Joint Doctrine for Explosive Ordnance Disposal Support to Operations AJP-3.18. During the doctrine review process, organized from 23 to 24 June 2021, the first Writing Session took place as an online event.  During this two-day virtual event, 19 participants; Subject Matter Experts in the field of EOD, C-IED, CBRN, Force Protection, Defense against Terrorism and MILENG, discussed details of the Working Draft of AJP-3.18 prepared by the Team from the Transformation Support Department of the EOD COE.  The first Writing Session was assessed as succsessful and productive, including very fruitful discussions. Based on an elaborated Working Draft, we believe to be ready for the next step, i.e., producing the Study Draft of the AJP-3.18 doctrine. We hope that the Subject Matter Experts Writing Team will support us in the next Session in November this year, keeping our hopes up for a face-to-face meeting in Trenčín, Slovakia.  

Conclusion 

Since 2011, the NATO EOD COE has become an irreplaceable NATO pillar for Training and Education, Lessons Learned and Analysis, Concept/Doctrine Development and Standardization, as well as for Technology Research and Development. This is in accordance with our vision:“Tobe NATO‘s catalyst for the improvement and transformation of EOD.

AUTHOR


Lt. Col. Damian Piórko – graduated from the Polish Military Academy in 2002 as a combat sapper officer. First eight years served in 5th Engineer Regiment honed his skills as a platoon leader, operational officer and coy commander. Than he was assigned to Military Engineer and CBRN Training Centre as an officer responsible for developing IEDD and C-IED capabilities within Polish Forces. Twice deployed to Afghanistan and assigned to CJTF Paladin (EOD Brigade). In 2020 he held accountability for transformation his former subordinated structure into Demining Coordination Centre that monitors and advice to EOD Patrols across the Poland. Since the 1st of July 2021 he holds the position in EOD COE in Trencin as a head of EOD Technologies Department.