While many of the Operation RENDER SAFE activities in the Solomon Islands have taken place in and around the capital of Honiara, communities in other parts of the country have not been forgotten.
A group of Royal Australian Air Force and Australian Army Explosive Ordnance (EOD) technicians, along with Royal Australian Navy (RAN) sailors and officers based on HMAS Tarakan have been working on clearing Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) and rebuilding classrooms at the community school at Yandina, in the Russell Islands, in the country’s Central Province.
Operation RENDER SAFE EOD technicians in the Russell Islands have been kept very busy, with more than 900 items having been found so far on land and at sea. These have ranged from ground mines in the water that were designed to disable shipping, to more than 50 bounding anti-personnel mines on land around Yandina, the main township in the Russell Islands. Much of this ordnance was found and disposed of in coconut plantations near Yandina and the safety of workers in these plantations will be improved as a result of the work of Operation RENDER SAFE.
RAAF EOD technician, Sergeant Luke Troy, is working on the EOD tasks around Yandina and described the task as extremely gratifying.
“We have cleared more than 50 anti-personnel mines from one of the local palm plantations and for me, knowing that the local kids I have met will be able to play in these plantations without risk of serious harm is one of the best parts of this job,” he said.
While EOD staff were engaged in disposing of unexploded ordnance, the remaining Operation RENDER SAFE personnel renovated classrooms at the Yandina Community High School. These renovations included new internal and external walls, repainting and repairing windows.
School Principal Augustine Olibuma said that the assistance had been very welcome.
“We heard a month ago that the Navy was coming to help our school and we have been very excited and looking forward to this job,” Mr Olibumu said.
“I would like to express how happy the school community has been to see the Navy come here to help with the maintenance and repair of our buildings.”
The Commander of Operation RENDER SAFE, Commander Doug Griffiths, said that it was good to see his Task Force members performing well on both fronts – community and EOD.
“Our core task is to remove ERW and reports coming back from the Russell Islands indicate that we are certainly doing that,” Commander Griffiths said. “Meanwhile, other RENDER SAFE personnel are able to combine with the resources of the Australian Government’s aid program to deliver better education facilities in the local community.”
“Our men and women who helped out at the Yandina School were glad for the opportunity to make a contribution to the community that will have a long lasting effect,” Commander Griffiths said.
Operation RENDER SAFE is a RAN-led, multinational Task Force of more than 150 members tasked with removing unexploded Word War II munitions from local communities in Solomon Islands.
Operation RENDER SAFE 2013 is running from 29 October to 7 December.
Press Release, November 20, 2013; Image: Australian Navy