Army's bomb disposal chief resigns after saying Afghan mission needs boost

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The Independent Online

Britain's top bomb disposal officer has resigned from his position after having spoke of his concern about the pressures his team faces in Afghanistan.

In a BBC Panorama programme to be shown tonight Colonel Bob Seddon, principal ammunition technical officer of the Royal Logistics Corps, suggests that more operatives are needed on the ground and he raises fears over the psychological impact of the job.

The programme, A Very British Hero, features an interview with the widow of Staff Sergeant Olaf "Oz" Schmid, who died in October last year while attempting to defuse an improvised explosive device (IED). Cristina Schmid says in the programme that fatigue may have played a part in her husband's death. "He was flaking at that point, saying 'I do need a break from this. I need to step back because I need to recharge', and I don't feel that he necessarily had that time."

Her fear that he and other bomb disposal experts have been let down by the Army were backed by Colonel Seddon, who said he was now "very concerned" about the toll being taken on his staff.

Colonel Seddon said: "We are looking at more senior officers becoming involved in this. We've broadened our training and selection but it will take some time before these measures can come into play. And what it does mean is the existing cohort are going to be under pressure."

Last night an Army spokesman confirmed that Colonel Seddon had resigned, and he will leave his post in January next year. He remains a serving officer until that time and has not many any comment.

Staff Sergeant Schmid, known as Oz, was killed by an IED on the last day of a five-and-a-half-month deployment to Afghanistan last October. It was his third call-out of the day and he had successfully defused 64 devices during the tour of duty.

Responding to the programme, Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox, said: "Countering the IED threat faced by our forces in Afghanistan is a top priority for the new Government. There are real challenges; the threat does not stand still and nor does our response. I will make sure that everything possible is done to ensure that our forces have what they need to deal with this indiscriminate threat. They deserve nothing less. As I have seen during my visits they are doing fantastic work in Afghanistan in support of the UK's national security."

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