A Royal Navy bomb disposal expert has been officially commended for his outstanding work training the Afghan National Army (ANA) to deal with deadly improvised explosive devices.
Leading Seaman (Diver) Martin Platts was given the award for outstanding achievement during Operation HERRICK - with only 50 of the accolades handed out across Task Force Helmand. It was presented by the Task Force Commander for HERRICK 15, Brigadier Patrick Sanders.
A Royal Navy diver by trade, LS(D) Platts spent the first half of his six-month tour of duty teaching ANA bomb disposal operators how to neutralise IEDs. He also cleared bombs for patrolling ISAF forces in Khar Nikah, in the Nahr-e Saraj area of Helmand, during a particularly busy spell of insurgent activity.
LS(D) Platts said:
I am glad to have been involved in the training and mentoring programme and really proud to have been picked for this award.
During the last operation I was involved in I bumped into the ANA operator we had been training earlier in the deployment and he told me he had cleared 130 IEDs without any incident since I last saw him and thanked me for the training. That was a really good feeling.
LS(D) Platts joined the Royal Navy as a clearance diver in 2001. Following deployments at sea and travelling around the world with Fleet Diving Unit 2, LS(D) Platts was promoted in 2009 and began working for Southern Diving Unit 2 who work as on-call bomb disposal experts for a large area of the UK.
During this time LS(D) Platts became the first member of the Royal Navy to pass the Army’s advanced high threat IED disposal operator course in 2011 before beginning six months of training for his deployment to Afghanistan:
The desert isn’t the most natural environment for divers so there was intensive training provided by the Royal Marines to enable us to deploy with professional soldiers,” he said.
It really kicked in the day after my birthday when we were working in a hostile area and we were in an explosion. Fortunately no-one was badly hurt but we didn’t go into as much shock as we would have done had we not done the training beforehand.
As part of his mentoring duties, LS(D) Platts spent much of his time working alongside the ANA, teaching them to take the lead once the coalition forces leave:
Mentoring was interesting,” he added. “I worked with members of the ANA much more closely than some of my peers and learnt a lot about the Afghan people and what they would like to see in the longer term.
They wanted to learn from us in order to not be reliant on ISAF and they were extremely enthusiastic and capable.
Yet it was once LS(D) Platts completed his mentoring duties to support coalition patrols in Khar Nikah that the soldiering skills learnt prior to deployment started to kick in. On notice round the clock to provide bomb disposal services, they were in constant demand as insurgent activity appeared to be on the increase:
We were busier in the last five weeks than in the whole of the first five months,” he said.
During on op there was an explosion that killed the bomb-layer about a hundred yards from our front gate. Then shortly afterwards we cleared six IEDs in four days and were then deployed in support of an ANA-led operation. Being versatile is essential in this type of theatre.