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The Army’s most senior bomb disposal officer has resigned after speaking out about the pressures faced by explosive ordnance disposal technicians in Afghanistan.

Colonel Bob Seddon resigned his post as the Army’s Principle Ammunition Technical Officer (PATO) after speaking publicly about the psychological stress put on bomb disposal experts by long tours in Afghanistan.

An Army spokesman confirmed Seddon’s resignation as PATO, adding that he would leave his post and the Army in January 2011.

“He remains a serving officer and will not be commenting,” the spokesman said. “The Army remains committed to the counter IED effort which is the number one priority in Afghanistan.”

In an interview with Christina Schmid, widow of Staff Sergeant Olaf ‘Oz’ Schmid, who was killed by an IED in October 2009, Seddon spoke out about the pressure on bomb disposal experts in Afghanistan.

“I’m very concerned that in the longer term some of my people that have done phenomenally difficult and dangerous work in Afghanistan may pay a deeper psychological price for the work that they have conducted,” said Seddon.

“We are about to kick off a more detailed study looking at the psychological impact of these operations because we’ve got a duty of care. We owe it to these people to do the best we can.”

Schmid said her late husband found his work to be “physically and mentally relentless” and the Ministry of Defence has admitted that it has breached its own ‘harmony guidelines’ regarding the length of rest periods and tours.

“Unfortunately at a time of high operational commitment, breaches of harmony guidelines do occur but we are taking steps to address the situation,” an MoD spokesman said.

Colonel Seddon told Schmid that it takes at least six years to fully train a specialist bomb disposal expert, meaning existing specialists are likely to remain under pressure for some time.

Source: Defence Management

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