Central Texas native trains Nigerian soldiers how to disarm IEDs

KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) With the fight against terrorism continuing across the world, there is a local connection to how Nigerian soldiers are being trained to disarm explosives.

For most of May, 1st Lt. Jimmy Podolak was one of only two U.S. soldiers training Nigerian soldiers on how to disarm a favorite among terrorist organizations: improvised explosive devices.

Podolak, who is stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, is a graduate of Harker Heights High School and Texas A&M University-Central Texas. He, along with U.S. Army Staff. Sgt. Brian Miller, were with the Nigerian soldiers from May 5-30 at the Nigerian Army School of Military Engineering, in Makurdi, Nigeria.

“We trained them on how to defeat the IEDs and remote move the UXOs (unexploded ordnance) to where they can safely dispose of them,” Podolak said.

The IED Defeat training, a program by U.S. Army Africa, focused on defusing improvised explosives and understanding ordnance.

Podolak and Miller trained 12 Nigerian soldiers in the classroom and out in the field with real-world exercises.

“They have to go in full blown and execute, keeping the popular safe, keeping them safe, remote moving any IED or hazardous that was explosive and they rendered it safe and dealt with appropriately,” he said.

Exercises included hook and line procedures (remote actions on devices), ordnance identification, training with the detectors and ground sign awareness.

“They were delighted to have us. Those students – soldiers – were ready to learn because they are facing it right now. It is a current threat they’re facing in the northeast. They were just ready to learn and they did,” Podolak said.

The soldiers learning daily the dangers and how to spot these often buried explosives.

“The knowledge that we have gained from the U.S. team will help us a lot,” Nigerian Sgt. Mumani Gani said in a press release. “I pray that the cooperation between the U.S. and the Nigerian army continues so that we can continue to gain this knowledge. We have a difficult challenge in the Northeast with buried IEDs. Now I know how to dispose of an IED, how to move it, the area to take it to dispose of it, hook and line techniques and ground sign awareness.”

The how-to of disarming IEDs, valuable for Nigerian soldiers who regularly fight terrorist organizations in the region.

“My mission was seeing them from day one to the end where they are running full blown problems by themselves, safely. Keeping the local populace safe, doing everything remotely,” Podolak said.

A mission, he says, he was proud to be part of.

“The satisfaction seeing the soldiers doing that on their own and controlling the scene was phenomenal,” Podolak added.

The Army says more soldiers will return to Nigeria to train a new group of soldiers later this year.