MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Improvised explosive devices account for 85 percent of American and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces casualties during Operation Enduring Freedom. So, stopping this deadly threat has been a top priority for military officials.
After approximately 18 months of planning and construction, the Combat Center opened Range 800 April 9 to train tenant units on the basics of counter-IED warfare.
Mike Fay is the site lead instructor for the new, $16 million range, which was established solely for tenant units to receive blocks one through five of the training. Many other suitable areas aboard the Combat Center are constantly in use by visiting units conducting predeployment training with Enhanced Mojave Viper.
“The home station training is already conducted at other bases, to include [Marine Corps Bases] Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune,” said Fay, from San Francisco. “The IED is the most effective weapon for insurgents, because they don’t want to go toe-to-toe with the Marine Corps in battle.”
Fay said a combination of data collected from overseas and incorporation of the data into the training they give Marines has led to an increased success rate in combating IEDs.
“We’ve noticed improvement in the units that have had the training when they’re deployed,” he said. “The Master Lesson Files we teach are a precursor to Mojave Viper and what they’ll learn there. We teach them the fundamentals of counter IED warfare.”
Fay described what the service members here can expect from the range.
“The first lane also includes possible IED and security checks, reaction to detonated IEDs in conjunction with the five C’s [Confirm, clear, cordon, control and call] and fives and 25s [five and 25 meter checks around the vehicle],” he said. “,” said Fay. “In the optics lane, Marines learn how to use their optics on their rifle or binoculars to scan for IEDs. In the indicator lane they learn about the visual indicators of an IED.”
The length of the course changes from unit-to-unit depending on specific requests from each command.
Scott Wheeler, a C-IED instructor here, said it is almost like an arms race between Marines and a resourceful enemy.
“We change the classes if need be, based on our research on the trends in country,” said the Mendota, Ill., native. “The enemy is always watching us and always recording us. They study the patterns we use, and try to one-up us constantly.
“They get to pick and choose where they put the IEDs,” Wheeler said. “To help the Marines get better, we try to teach them to think like an insurgent when dealing with IEDs, based on the trends we’ve seen in Afghanistan.”
Loren Hutton, another instructor, gave further insight into just how experienced the enemy is, based on their nation’s history of conflict.
“Afghanistan has been fighting conventional militaries for 60 years,” said the Apple Valley, Calif., native. “They know what attack sites worked well against the British and Soviets. The enemy likes to use them again and again, because they know how well they worked.
They pass these attack sites down from generation to generation,” he said to an attentive class of Marines. “It just shows how much it means that you do your research.”
Marines who have completed the training said learning and practicing these techniques as early as possible before deployment is essential so that implementing them becomes second nature.
“We have a lot of new Marines in the company, and in the squadron, basically,” said Capt. Roy Miner, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374’s Motor Transportation Company commander. “Training them specifically to operate in an IED environment is essential to a proactive warfighting posture.”
Miner’s Marines are deploying to Afghanistan the fall of next year and have completed the beginning phase of their training.
Miner said this training will benefit them down the road as the squadron heads into a hostile place.
“We’re preparing our Marines, because there is always that possibility they will encounter IEDs when in a convoy,” said the Pittsburgh, Calif., native. “I’m hoping they will become familiar with these tactics being used by the insurgents in the Afghanistan theater.”
Miner said his Marines have overcome the initial difficulties of their inexperience and have started to improve their tactics, work as a team and adapting to their mission.
“The different parts of the company began working together, and we’re building a more cohesive company in an IED environment,” he said.
Miner said the obstacles his Marines will face overseas are mirrored very well by the new range’s training.
“We get a chance to refine and improve on our IED [tactics, techniques and procedures] in a realistic situation,” he said. “The training and feedback we’re getting here helps us greatly improve on our TTPs before we actually get over there.”
For more information on scheduling training, call 760-819-3413 or 760-310-4164.