Canadian Armed Forces clears over three tonnes of explosives from the Solomon Islands

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Article / October 7, 2016 / Project number: cjoc

By: Canadian Joint Operations Command Public Affairs

70 years ago, the Solomon Islands were the scene of the heavy fighting of the Second World War.

Today the islands paint a beautiful picture, with lush green jungles and sunny beaches, surrounded by the turquoise waves of the Pacific. Yet hidden away on land and under water lie the legacy of that fighting: explosive remnants of war, which continue to pose a threat to locals.

To counter this hazard, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) participates in Operation RENDER SAFE, an Australian-led mission that aims to clear these threats from the region.

This year the CAF sent a team of about 18 combat engineers, clearance divers, and aviation technicians. On land and at sea, they cleared 747 explosives weighing over three tonnes.

Major Dan Shaver, Canadian Task Force Commander, remarks that Canada’s success was due to great people and assets.

“Our operators are world class and our equipment is effective and reliable,” he said. “We brought a wide range of skills, capabilities and relevant operational experience to the mission.”

A mission like Operation RENDER SAFE gives CAF members the opportunity to practice their skills and to work with partners.

“Continued international engagements such as Operation RENDER SAFE provide unique and challenging opportunities to allow for improved allied interoperability,” said Major Shaver. “They also allow us to maintain highly technical, but perishable skill sets.”

During the operation, working with the locals proved to be invaluable. By teaming up with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) and learning the local dialect, troops built trust and good will with the locals, working with them to find and dispose of a number of explosives.

The mission was not without its challenges. The hot, humid climate meant that the average day felt like 40 to 45 degrees Celsius. Further, some of the explosives were in remote locations, and since the islands are covered in thick jungle, troops often needed to cut their way through using machetes.

Challenges aside, there were also many highlights for the CAF that went beyond the mission goal of disposing of explosives. At one point, the CAF task force came to the aid of a local school by delivering fresh water. On another occasion, they helped the RSIPF in replacing one of their damaged vehicles in a remote location so that community policing could resume.

“The most significant highlight, however,” said Major Shaver, “was the friendships developed within the Combined Joint Task Force, the RSIPF and the communities in which we operated. By the end of our short time here, we were all welcomed as ‘wantok’ (a local, family) with a local church group preparing a feast in our honour.”

Operation RENDER SAFE 2016 took place from September 7 to October 7, 2016. About 200 personnel from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands, and the United Kingdom participated. Together they cleared 2584 explosives weighing over 18 tonnes.

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