Operation RENDER SAFE delivers for the people of Solomon Islands

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Tony White (author), ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez (photographer), SGT Hamish Paterson (photographer)

Location(s): Honiara

Able Seaman Clearance Diver (ABCD) Matt Deloraine and ABCD Daniel Bird prepare plastic explosive to clear unexploded ordnance in Russell Islands during Operation RENDER SAFE 2013. (photo: ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez)
Able Seaman Clearance Diver (ABCD) Matt Deloraine and ABCD Daniel Bird prepare plastic explosive to clear unexploded ordnance in Russell Islands during Operation RENDER SAFE 2013.

Operation RENDER SAFE 2013 is winding up in Solomon Islands and has built on the success of previous RENDER SAFE operations to deliver a much safer physical environment for Solomon Islanders, while at the same time allowing the Australian Defence Force’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians to sharpen their skills.

Over the three-week main phase of the operation, about 10,000 Unexploded Remnants of War (URW) were located and either destroyed or made safe by the multi-national RENDER SAFE Combined Joint Task Force 663. These items were found near villages, airport runways, beaches, coastal waters and community vegetable gardens. The removal of these items has allowed these areas to be safely returned to community use. It has been both the opportunity to test their skills and the community benefits they have delivered that has been rewarding for the personnel involved in RENDER SAFE.

For Seaman Marine Technician Luke Ellemor, fresh out of his initial training and still completing his competency log, RENDER SAFE has presented opportunities to do things he would never have imagined doing only a year ago. Deployed to sea for the first time aboard HMAS Tarakan, SMN Ellemor has filled in as a watch-keeper in the main operations room, launched zodiacs off an idyllic tropical beach, helped rebuild a school on a remote island and gone out into the jungle with a Canadian Navy EOD team in search of URW. But for SMN Ellemor the best part was working directly with the local community.

“After we finished the work on the school, the look on the kids faces when they saw their new classrooms was worth all the work in the heat; they were just so happy to see what we had done,” SMN Ellemor said.

These sentiments were echoed by freshly promoted Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics – Supply Chain sailor Chris Pollack who arrived in Solomon Islands as part of the advance party for RENDER SAFE. In his first operational role as a Leading Seaman, LS Pollock has helped to establish all the supply requirements of a major EOD operation and worked directly on the renovation of a domestic violence victim’s shelter near Honiara, the nation’s capital.

“Providing a water supply to the women’s shelter and seeing the surrounding area all cleared of URW, so the women and children can go about their lives safely, has easily been the best part of the operation so far,” LS Pollock said.

Over the first three weeks of the operation, the 10,000 URW items made safe on land and at sea were equivalent to a year’s work for Solomon Island’s own EOD teams and more than 20 square kilometres of ocean, including the beach areas around Honiara were surveyed by REMUS Underwater Autonomous Vehicle operators and HMAS Diamantina. These marine areas were then cleared by multinational EOD teams operating from Guadalcanal, HMAS Diamantina, HMAS Tarakan and HMAS Labuan. The operation relied heavily on support from local communities in locating URW. Three local schools were renovated as part of the operation’s community engagement activities, as well as the improvements made to the domestic violence victim’s shelter.

Operation RENDER SAFE is an enduring ADF-led Explosive Ordnance Disposal mission which has been conducted in Solomon Islands this year. The operation consists of a Combined Joint Task Force of nearly 200 Explosive Ordnance Disposal specialists and support staff from the ADF, New Zealand Defence Force, Canadian Armed Forces, the United States Navy and Royal Solomon Islands Police Force. Operation Render Safe 2014 is planned to take place in Bougainville.

OP RENDER SAFE 2013 will continue in Solomon Islands until December 7.