Combat engineers from 5 CER train Ukrainian Armed Forces members in explosive device disposal

Major Samantha Laplante
Major Samantha Laplante leads a team deployed to Ukraine made up of about twenty engineers, mainly from 5 Combat Engineer Regiment (CER), and some members of other trades of the CAF and elsewhere. Photo: Cpl Richard Lessard, Photographer, JTF-U

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Édouard Dufour, Adsum

Major Samantha Laplante, a member of 5 Combat Engineer Regiment (CER) from CFB Valcartier, is in command of the engineering training group in Ukraine. She and her team are laying the foundation for vital training to neutralize explosives used by the Ukrainian military.

“Mines, ordnance and improvised explosive devices pose a permanent threat to all soldiers operating in Ukraine,” said Maj Laplante.

Developing training in improvised explosive device disposal (IEDD) was the focus of previous rotations, including the design of an IEDD operator course. In spring 2018, the course became the responsibility of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, a key accomplishment of the mission.

Although the IEDD operator course represents the highest level of training, the Canadians noted some gaps in Ukrainian soldiers’ basic skills and knowledge of explosive and ordnance neutralization. This is why Maj Laplante and her co-workers have spent several months developing a five-level sapper training program.

“Each level advances through very specific tiers with learning objectives and responsibilities that gradually increase in complexity,” said Maj Laplante. In May, the first groups of Ukrainian soldiers will start to take the course.

Maj Laplante feels that communication is one of this mission’s main challenges, not only because understanding each ally’s language is difficult, but also because they need to decipher their respective military and engineering jargons. A number of human and logistical resources have thus been deployed in the field to facilitate communication between the various people taking part in Operation UNIFIER.

“Canada’s doctrine is heavily inspired by NATO and vice versa. The training we’re helping to develop will fill in some potential gaps between Ukrainian and NATO doctrine. My team members feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride in being able to assist our Ukrainian allies and helping them to take charge of the future security of their country. Troop morale couldn’t be higher. Our Canadian and Ukrainian team members have built very strong ties,” said Maj Laplante.

Deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 in a similar role, Maj Laplante feels that designing the courses will produce results in the longer term, especially with respect to the sustainable development of military training for Ukrainian forces.

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