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Inside the landmine training grounds where recruits are saving lives
In a hot, dry field on the outskirts of Huambo, Angola, women are learning the dangerous job of removing land mines.
This training facility is part of the Halo Trust's "100 Women in Demining" program, which aims to boost mine clearance while adding female deminers, medics, drivers and mechanics in Angola.
Although this is a mock minefield used purely for training, everything here is treated as if it were real.
All rules are followed by the book. Safety gear is worn at all times.
The training camp's facilities include canvas tents for sleeping, a common area, a kitchen and storage units made from shipping containers.
Demining is tedious and meticulous work -- often in thick brush -- as workers slowly scrape away the soil, centimeter by centimeter.
Deminers must first clear away any brush before they can even begin to use their metal detectors, which must be as close as possible to the ground.
Ralph Legg, a location manager of the Halo Trust, goes through proper demining technique with a new trainee.
A trainee works under the hot sun in Huambo, Angola.
A trainee calibrates her solar-powered metal detector.
A young trainee follows the same rigorous procedures she would use in a real minefield.
Metal detectors require frequent calibration.
Following meter-wide lanes, deminers move forward a few inches at a time, scanning the ground with metal detectors as they go.
It's safer to excavate mines from the side, where there's less risk of detonation.
Workers get a 10 minute break every half hour.
An estimated 1 million land mines were buried during Angola's 27-year civil war.
Clearing mines is a painstakingly low-tech affair. The tools include a metal detector, a weed wacker and a meter-long stick.
A trainee marks out a new line to follow. Red-tipped sticks stake out a boundary between safe ground and live mines.
Another trainee measures a lane to be cleared.
To make sure deminers stay safe, the Halo Trust continually reinforces strict procedures and protocols so that trainees never lose sight of proper technique.
After completing the monthlong training course, the women must pass a written exam and a field test before they can officially become deminers.
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