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Landmine Awareness Day at SMS

SMSU hosts "Landmine Awareness Day" April 15th. Mike Smith has the story .

Standing in a mock minefield at SMSU, a former Special Forces soldier, now with the U.S. Department of Defense Humanitarian De-mining Training Center, tells onlookers how landmines are detected and disposed of. He tells the group of grade school, high school, and college students gathered for "Landmine Awareness Day", that the use of mechanical and electric technology, along with dogs trained to sniff out explosives, and manually searching, or literally feeling the ground, is the triad approach to landmine detection.

Sponsored by the SMSU Political Science Department, the office of SMSU President Dr. John Keiser, and the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, Landmine Awareness Day was organized by SMSU Political Science Assistant Professor Ken Rutherford who says even though the landmine is a weapon of war, over 90% of landmine victims are civilians.

Rutherford, himself a victim, having lost both legs in 1993 when a landmine exploded under his vehicle while on a humanitarian mission in Somalia, says Landmine Awareness Day serves as a reminder that mines and other explosive remnants of war are left on battlefields and in some cases farm fields, long after fighting stops. All too often though, explosive ordinance disposal, or EOD, is necessary during a war, and according to Paul Arcangeli, Director of the Humanitarian De-mining Training Center at Fort Leonard Wood Missouri, EOD is a huge challenge in Iraq where over 600,000

Tons of explosive remnants are in some cases, literally lying around for the taking.

Coming out of the war in Iraq and into the vernacular of daily newscasts, the phrase "Improvised Explosive Device", or

IED, describes any type of explosive ordinance like an artillery or mortar round cleverly hidden along a roadway in anticipation of a passing convoy or foot patrol. Arcangeli says insurgents in Iraq are highly imaginative in how they disguise these devices. He says IED's are planted under rocks and in guard rails or even dead goats.

The soldiers whose duty is to de-activate IED's, landmines, and other explosive ordinance, are trained in a school run by the Navy at an Air Force base in Florida. Paul Arcangeli says those who work on EOD teams are a special breed of people.

He says dealing with IED's, several EOD team members including women, have been killed in Iraq while working to dispose of the dangerous devices.

At "Landmine Awareness Day, members of the Humanitarian De-mining Training Center also informed visitors about the several hundred types of mines that are deployed by the millions around the world.

SMSU and Department of Defense officials say "Landmine Awareness Day" will be held on campus again next year.

For KSMU News, I'm Mike Smith.