HOLLY RIDGE, N.C. -- Marines with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion walked through a makeshift village, understanding danger could be anywhere. They scanned the ground with metal detectors and moved about with great care past innocuous homes at a counter IED course held at the Marine Corps Engineer School’s Home Station Training Lanes in Holly Ridge, N.C., April 25.
As they approached the outskirts of town, smoke jetted through the air from a village backyard, where two Marines stood. An instructor walked up to them and notified them they were now casualties, victims to an improvised explosive device, as the two dropped to the ground, nearby Marines rushed across the street to help.
As one attempted to lift a wounded Marine, the sounds of gunfire rang through the air and he too fell to the ground, leaving Cpl. Donovan Bryant, a combat engineer with Bravo Company, 2nd CEB surrounded by his fallen comrades.
He had no time to panic, and responded to the attack using the skills and training he had learned in days prior through the Marine Corps Engineer School’s Counter Improvised Explosive Device Training. Moments later, the scenario was over and the team was able to gather and reflect on the exercise.
“It was good training,” said Bryant. “We learned what works and what doesn’t. I hope to do more training like it.”
The Marines of Bravo Company took one of a dozen courses that can be customized to prepare Marines to react to an IED situation.
With many hands-on, interactive options, leaders can prepare their Marines to handle the threat of IEDs at no cost to the unit. The course is funded by the Marine Corps’ Training and Education Command.
There are a variety of training options which allow for unit flexibility, including mobile courses and home station training lanes, an area designed specifically to train service members in IED response.
The training area has 4.5 kilometers of roads with overpasses, round-abouts, intersections and culverts. The facility includes three indoor classrooms, two outdoor classrooms and two mock villages. It also has a bivouac site suitable to hold a battalion size unit.
“It’s important to understand where your Marines are and to pick the right (training options),” said 1st Lt. Stuart A. Drash, the platoon commander for first platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd CEB.
The instructors of the course are great at tailoring the classes to individual groups, and their level of experience, Drash added.
Planning is key to ensure the course can be used to its full potential, he added.
The Marines gained a lot from this experience, said Drash. They learned not only about IEDs, but also the basics of working as a group and patrolling.
Service members are no strangers to the threat of IEDs. More than 60 percent of all deaths and injuries in Afghanistan are related to IEDs, according to the Joint IED Defeat Organization. In the first three months of this year there were more than 2,000 IED events in Afghanistan.
“IEDs are the most significant threat in Afghanistan and remain the insurgents’ weapon of choice,” said David Small, the spokesman of the Joint IED Defeat Organization, a joint service task force.
IEDs are fluid, adaptable weapons that can come in many forms, from a simple pipe bomb to more complex explosives, said Craig Yohe, the site lead of the Counter IED Training. The methods and materials used to create the devices change frequently.
“The battle against IEDs is a very dynamic fight,” said Yohe. “It’s a cat and mouse game, as we encounter and defeat the devices, they come up with new ways to attack us.”
Due to the changing nature of IEDs, it’s important to take the course frequently to become reacquainted with the explosives and any new information available, said Master Sgt. James Paul, the explosives obstacles and branch chief with the MCES. Paul recommends Marines take the course annually.
The explosives are not only a threat in deployed environments throughout the Middle East. There were more than 15,000 IED events throughout the world in the last year, according to Joint IED Defeat Organization. The IED events resulted in more than 44,000 deaths and injuries.
As the Marine Corps draws down in the Middle East, it’s important to become acquainted with how the weapons are used elsewhere, said Chad Graff, a team lead with the Counter IED Training.
Instructors at the school can customize lessons to specific deployed environments throughout the world.
“It’s important that their first exposure to an IED isn’t on the ground,” said Graff.
The courses offered range from classes where students learn how to identify and react to IED indicators to classes designed to assist leaders with the knowledge and training to plan movements in an IED environment.
Other classes teach how to operate metal detectors, IED confirmation robots and Counter Radio Electronic Warfare systems, which block radio signals that are sometimes used to detonate IEDs remotely.
Since the program’s inception in 2007, more than 250,000 service members have been trained throughout the country.
“It’s impossible to tell how many lives have been saved by these courses,” said Matthew Fletcher, the public affairs officer with MCES.
For unit participation, contact Craig Yohe at 440-7548 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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