Operation "Avid Recovery" Begins

LAGOS, NIGERIA - The main element of U.S. Army explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) experts arrived in Nigeria Wednesday and has begun preparation to assist the Nigerian armed forces with clearance of unexploded ordnance.

The soldiers joined a small advance party that arrived last week, bringing the overall strength of soldiers and Department of Defense civilians involved with this operation to approximately 60.

This deployment of soldiers is part of the U.S. government's response to assist the Nigerian government in the aftermath of the tragic events resulting from the explosion of munitions stored at the Ikeja Cantonment Area in Lagos, Nigeria last month. The mission has been designated Operation AVID RECOVERY.

The majority of the soldiers deploying to conduct this operation, including all of the EOD experts, are assigned to units within the 21st Theater Support Command (TSC) from US Army Europe. The 21st TSC is based in Germany. The Task Force is commanded by Maj. Allen Cassell.

The explosive ordnance disposal experts are from the 720th Ordnance Company (EOD) and are commanded by Capt. Brian Winningham. The 720th is based in Mannheim, Germany.

In addition to the EOD experts, other soldiers with unique skills and equipment will make up the Task Force. These additional personnel will provide medical, communications and logistical support to the EOD experts.

The Task Force's medical needs will be met by soldiers from the 160th Forward Surgical Team (FST) based in Landstuhl, Germany. Other medical professionals from the 30th Medical Brigade and the First Armored Division will augment the FST. The FST will provide emergency medical, surgical and critical-care life support.

This operation has been carefully planned with close cooperation between the U.S. Army and Nigerian government and military representatives, numerous civilian contractors and other authorities. Explosive ordnance disposal specialists from the United Kingdom will also support the clearance effort.

The precise techniques that the EOD soldiers will employ to deal with the unexploded ordnance are not releasable to the public. In general terms, the EOD soldiers will conduct a detailed survey and inspection of the cantonment area, identifying and marking unexploded ordnance. If the unexploded ordnance is deemed stable enough, the EOD specialists will transport it to a safe location away from populated areas for destruction.

If the unexploded ordnance is determined to be too unstable to move safely, it will be destroyed in place using controlled detonations of explosive charges. The Task Force will inform the public through the local media prior to beginning controlled detonations on the cantonment area. These explosions will be relatively small and will occur mainly between the hours of 9 AM and 1 PM.

In addition to stabilizing the cantonment area, the U.S. Army EOD experts will provide training for the public on the dangers of ordnance and the Nigerian military personnel assisting them will be instructed on the proper handling of explosive ordnance.

The U.S. Army EOD experts will be in Nigeria for approximately two months.

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