MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The possibility of death is a reality Marines must constantly face as they embark upon Security and Stabilization Operations in Iraq. The prime source of death has been Improvised Explosive Devices, according to instructors at Engineer Training Area 3 here.
Improvised Explosive Devices are created in an improvised manner incorporating destructive, lethal, noxious, pyrotechnic or incendiary chemicals designed to destroy, disfigure, distract or harass. They are the preferred weapon of choice of Iraqi insurgents and Saddam Hussein loyalists.
“The enemy has found an easy way to get at us,” said Gunnery Sgt. Eric J. Schnitzler, officer in charge of Engineer Training Area 3.
Recently as Marines officially replaced the Army in Iraq, the reality of IED’s was brought to light. Marines from 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, survived a roadside bomb near the town of Fallujah, with two Marines suffering broken bones.
Statistics detailing the grim results of IED’s speak volumes about the missions Marines will face as they are deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. Fifty-nine servicemembers died and 840 were wounded in action in Iraq from IED’s between May 1 and Dec. 28, 2003.
“They’re using this tactic to try to demoralize us,” said Sgt. Brandon T. Miller, ETA instructor, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion. “The enemy had to find some way to demoralize coalition forces, but it is not happening. As far as Marines are concerned, we will still assault through and carry out our mission.”
A significant aspect of carrying out the mission has been addressed by an ongoing IED awareness course offered to II Marine Expeditionary Force Marines. The new course was designed to make Marines aware of the threat IED’s pose.
“The course is designed to improve the student’s situational awareness,” said Miller. “This is crucial because these Marines will be deploying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II.”
The course includes instruction on the characteristics of IED’s, how they are made and how they are deployed.
“Eighty-five percent of all IED’s are remotely detonated, as opposed to fifty percent when the war first started,” said Staff Sgt. Steve Brumfeld, the chief instructor at ETA-3. “Now they are using garage door openers, cell phones and beepers. What kind of a threat is a garage door opener? The good thing is, you know the enemy is not far away.”
Improvised Explosive Devices can look like any common object, according to Sgt. Stefan M. Plescha, an instructor at ETA-3.
“Explosive Ordnance Disposal units have found black plastic garbage bags with 130 mm artillery rounds wired in series, milk cartons with plastique or C-4 and dog carcasses filled with explosives,” said Plescha.
The course also teaches there is no hard rule on who is a target.
“Everybody is a target, regardless of rank,” said Plescha. “All the enemy knows is you are wearing that uniform they don’t like.”
Video clips illustrating the devastating effects of IED’s, and how easy it is to prepare and conceal an IED, punctuated the course. There are, however, ways to protect oneself, according to Plescha.
“You must trust yourself, and don’t be complacent,” said Plescha. “Remember, most bomber’s don’t blow up their own neighborhoods.”
The class went into extensive detail on how the enemy operates and the tactics they employ, according to Staff Sgt. Scott P. Perry, weapons mortar section leader, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines.
“I feel more prepared to deal with the threat,” said Perry. “Before, we were thinking of standard booby traps; now we know how creative the enemy is in their effort to counter us.”
The leaders in II MEF recognize a period of instruction, such as the IED awareness course, will have a positive impact on the effectiveness of Security and Stabilization Operations during OIF II, according to Schnitzler.
“The units see this is a priority,” said Schnitzler. “They are not sitting back and waiting for direction but rather getting Marines prepared so we can mitigate the numbers of wounded and killed in action and have more success carrying out our mission in Iraq.”
To schedule a course for your unit contact the ETA-3 staff at 451-2004 or the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion training section at 451-3527.