MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- With think tanks, high-level commanders and experts in international conflict discussing future wars as a hybrid between the conventional and unconventional alike, a weapon has emerged during recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan that promises to be a continued threat in future campaigns – the improvised explosive device.
Shown time and time again to be both effective and ever-evolving, IEDs pose perhaps the greatest threat to ground-intensive conventional forces, such as the Marine Corps. To counter this threat, Marines in combat-oriented fields have been receiving extensive training on tactics meant to circumvent the dangers of roadside bombs for years. Now, non-infantry units are getting these skills, too.
Marines with 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, have began to foster said skills in their Marines and sailors ahead of an anticipated deployment to Afghanistan later this year with a counter-IED training evolution March 3-8.
There are benefits beyond the practical and life-saving for intelligence analysts, who routinely read, edit and write reports on IED strikes. Learning about improvised explosives offers a sense of perspective of what life on the ground is like and will better prepare the intelligence Marines for their analysis mission as well, explained Maj. Jason Mitchell a company commander with 2nd Intel battalion.
“Our responsibility is to man, train and equip our Marines for any billet they may hold,” said Mitchell. “These Marines never know where they’re going to go – some may wind up conducting analysis on this threat. On top of that they might find themselves attached to units where they may patrol and travel in convoys. [IED’s] will be the weapon they will be dealing with in their analysis, whether it be over the next 10 or 20 years.
During their five-day long field operation, the Marines remained outdoors at the training site. They received classes on types of improvised explosive devices, their components, how they are made, and how to identify the threat, including indicators such as atmospherics, markers and spotters.
The training began with simple scenarios, which steadily became more complex as the training continued, explained Charlie Tucker, a counter-IED instructor and retired Marine who works for the Marine Corps Engineer Center.
The training culminated with the Marines moving to secure a landing zone. As those on point approached this intended objective, they inadvertently detonated a simulated IED, forcing them to deal with casualties, set up a cordon, and search for secondary explosive devices.
This part of the training, explained Tucker, was perhaps the most significant, as it combined all the previous elements of the exercise, and offered a more realistic example of what they would be seeing in their reports during their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.
“For these guys, because of their [Military Occupational Specialty], being intel, they see reports on IED’s and casualties, but can’t always relate,” said Tucker. “They may read about it, but aren’t exposed to it – this gives them a better idea of what is actually happening.”
Finally, the training served the simple, but important, role of reminding all those present and participating, that they were still Marines, explained CWO2 David L. Smith, an operations officer with 2nd Intel Bn.
“It hones their basic Marine skills, get’s them out in the field with a weapon in their hands and a flak jacket on their body – if nothing else it gets them out of the office,” concluded Smith.
With the battalion scheduled to return to Afghanistan later this year, the counter-IED training could come in handy sooner rather than later.