By MCC(SCW/SW/AW) Ryan G. Wilber
An improvised explosive device lies buried in the dirt, out of sight of a Humvee, during counter-improvised explosive device and explosive ordnance disposal training at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Nov. 30, 2012. This event helped foster mutual understanding between U.S. and Japanese forces and improved their ability to conduct integrated contingency operations in support of their mutual national interests and the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa mission to promote security and stability throughout East Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Ruano)
As the war in Afghanistan winds down and the Seabee mission once again begins to change, one thing that has not changed is the need for counter-improvised explosive device (C-IED) training.
In the past three years, more than 10,000 Seabees have been trained under the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) directive and Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) oversight through the Home Station Training Lane (HSTL) C-IED training at Camp Keller, Woolmarket, Miss.
According to Charles Carpenter, HSTL lead instructor, the goal of the HSTL staff is to push as close to tactical proficiency as possible the application of the nine principles of counter-IED combat and tactical combat casualty care. The HSTL training consists of a mock Afghan village and marketplace, with modified stressors to simulate the area and threat the battalion will likely encounter.
“At the leadership level, we attempt to create the realism in a situation to force decision stress. We create the toughest moment in a leader’s life and give them the opportunity to fight through the chaos,” said Charles Carpenter, HSTL lead instructor. “We also try to bring home how dynamic and pervasive the threat is. We attempt to get them to the point of ‘thinking,’ and not just blindly following a list. Every Sailor is a sensor and a vital part of the team,” said Carpenter.
The students must navigate culverts, overpasses and guardrails, while learning to properly employ their vehicles, dismount techniques, and use compact metal detectors and electronic countermeasures.
Marine Corps Capt. Learlin LeJeune, Naval Construction Group (NCG) 2, military training officer, said hands-on training gives the students experience they cannot get in a classroom only.
“We can put the Seabees in the movie theater and go through eight hours of Power Point and they’ll only get a certain level of awareness, but the moment you go out and walk on the ground…it creates a much higher level of awareness. It’s really an eye opener for them,” said LeJeune.
Senior Chief Utilitiesman Keith Lefebvre, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11, training chief, has deployed to the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility (AOR) four times since the beginning of the Iraqi War. He agreed that C-IED training is valuable to a forward-deployed Seabee.
“The difference between the two [having vs. not having C-IED training] is your awareness when it comes down to it. Having that training ups your awareness to be able to identify situations, or the devices themselves, to give yourself a better chance of not hitting one. Having that training definitely benefits us a lot,” said Lefebvre.
Recalling issues with conflicting equipment during his first deployment to Iraq, LeJeune said he believes C-IED training under JIEDDO has done a lot of good for military members and the Seabees trained at NCG 2.
“Every unit that has come back has really praised the Home Station Training Lane that they received here prior to going, and there have been confirmed stories where I have had Seabees come back and tell me specifically that ‘Sir, because I went through that training, we were able to identify the detonation cord, and we stopped and avoided running over an IED,’” said LeJeune.
The JIEDDO website states that IEDs will most likely continue to be a threat throughout the world and may never go away. Originally established by the Department of Defense (DoD) in February 2006, JIEDDO focuses on attacking the network, defeating the device, and training the force.
IEDs are expected to grow in sophistication and frequency as enemies realize the potential psychological, social and political impact the weapon provides. There is no other widely available terror weapon that provides the mass media focus, sheer panic and influence than an IED.
This is why C-IED training is so important. LeJeune said that as Seabees continue to deploy around the globe, he believes that they must continue their specific training to always be one step ahead of the enemy.
“For Seabees being world-wide deployable, they need an exposure and level of awareness of this counter-IED fight, so that way if they’re operating in a small project sight, they are not vulnerable to those attacks,” said LeJeune. “There is a clear recognition that the IED is here to stay. It’s the poor man’s weapon of choice across the world, so we have to continue to train and be ready to counter that threat.”