By MC1 Patrick Gordon, NMCB 25 Public Affairs
Members of NMCB 25 perform an ordnance location drill using the four-man sweep method during the Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) course at the Gulfport Home Station Training Lane, Gulfport, Miss., Jan. 16. Photos by MC1 Patrick Gordon
On a deserted stretch of road, a squad of Seabees is moving cautiously forward in a wide V-formation, scanning the environment for threats. One squad member stops dead in his tracks and fixes his eyes on a spot near his position.
“Rattlesnake, rattlesnake, rattlesnake,” he yells, signaling his squad that he has seen an improvised explosive device (IED) and to fall back to a safe position. The threat has been located, and no casualties occurred as a result of his vigilance.
This scene does not play out in a remote region of Afghanistan, but rather a 1,000-square-meter patch of land in Woolmarket, Miss., named Camp Keller. The area was built specifically to train service members for situations identical to this once they deploy overseas. Members of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 25, a Reserve battalion based in Fort McCoy, Wis., are training in the area prior to deploying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom later this year. Making sure they are ready is the job of Home Station Training Lane personnel.
Michael Landon (center), counter-radio controlled improvised electronic device electronic warfare (CREW) company specialist, explains the components and use of the compact metal detector version 2 ordnance detector to members of NMCB 25 during the Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) course at the Gulfport Home Station Training Lane , Gulfport, Miss., Jan. 16.
“This training is critical for personnel deploying to Afghanistan,” said Charles Carpenter, site leader for Gulfport Home Station Training Lane (HSTL). “The IED is the number-one threat on the battlefield today, at a rate of more than three-to-one of the second-highest casualty producer, which is small-arms. It is the number one weapon of choice by the insurgent.”
According to Carpenter, the HSTL was built to staff and meet pre-deployment counter-IED (C-IED) training worldwide. The four-day course at Gulfport HSTL is taught by personnel from the Engility Corporation and encompasses a wide-range of C-IED information, including ordnance detection tools and methods, tactical medicine, and danger point tactics, techniques and procedures. Deploying service members are taught in four ways, from classroom knowledge-based instruction, demonstrations, practical evolutions and ultimately a full mounted combat patrol mission.
Glenn Kuntz (left), Gryphon Technologies, assists EO1(SCW) Richard Tucker, NMCB 25, with the fitting of an M50 gas mask, NCBC Gulfport, Miss., Jan. 13.
The training is embraced by unit leadership due to its intensity and attention to detail.
“The C-IED course is not only a requirement, it’s an extremely valuable course for any member deploying to Afghanistan,” said Lt. Daniel Roberts, NMCB 25 training officer. “The more knowledge our people have, the more prepared they are.”
But the knowledge gained from the training is only part of what these Seabees will need from the course, said Carpenter. He maintains that Sailors need to have a specific mentality when it comes to C-IED, one the instructors hope to build.
“Our training is not about survival, it’s about combat effectiveness,” said Carpenter. “It’s about facing the enemy and his chosen weapons system, the IED, and winning – not just surviving, but winning. So we try to instill that combat mindset in the individual going forward, and get that individual to realize that he can beat the insurgent and his weapon, because the individual Sailor is better; has better training, better equipment, and is in the greatest Navy on the planet. So we need our guys to understand they’re on the winning team.”
The concept of a “winning team” is something that Carpenter and his fellow instructors impress upon the Seabees. He uses baseball as an analogy for the frame of mind the students need to apply to C-IED operations.
“Everyone in the field during a baseball game is wondering where the next play is going to come from in a number of circumstances, and C-IED training teaches the Sailors that come through here the same thing; constantly being aware of their situation and how to act and react to it,” said Carpenter.
The members of NMCB 25 appreciate the gravity of the training, often forgetting they are in an exercise. But all realize that this training will pay large dividends later, some better than others.
CWO3 Brian Schultz, NMCB 25 applies a tourniquet to Lt. Cmdr. David Platz, NMCB 25 executive officer, in a simulated improvised explosive device (IED) attack during the counter-IED course at the Gulfport Home Station Training Lane, Gulfport, Miss., Jan. 16.
“This will be my second tour to Afghanistan,” said HM2(FMF) James Spieker, NMCB 25’s Medical Department. “And every single thing I encountered from my first deployment has been covered in class. They’ve really hit everything to a tee, and I think it’s really going to help down the line and save a lot of lives by preventing IED attacks. The instructors ensure that everything is noticed, and if it’s not we’ll go back and make sure it is so we don’t make the same mistake again, especially when it counts.”
NMCB 25 is a battalion of the Naval Construction Force. It is a routinely deployable unit, standing ready to provide construction support for Navy, Marine Corps and other organizations. To be prepared, these Reservists train in both technical and tactical skills. The primary focus of the Reserve units during their Active Training (AT) time is readiness training, and the maintenance and repair of Fleet activities.