By Jennie Haskamp
Special to American Forces Press Service
May 26, 2007 – Servicemembers need to learn the techniques, tactics and procedures for defeating improvised explosive devices before they deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to officials with the Joint IED Defeat Organization. "IEDs are the number one killer on the battlefield," said Army Brig. Gen. Robert W. Cone, director of Joint IED Defeat Organization's Joint Center of Excellence at Fort Irwin, Calif. "I don't think we're doing enough to address that at home stations.
"Our training audience is typically on their way to Iraq for the third time," said Cone, a Manchester, N.H., native and 1979 West Point graduate. "Our customers want to train here to attack the network - we can't give them the basics and expect them to learn the rest in theater."
The Joint IED Defeat Organization, known as JIEDDO, is attacking the IED threat using a balance of intelligence, training and technology. Originally formed as the Army's IED Task Force, the group has transformed into a combined joint service, interagency, multi-national program designed to leverage all available resources and technologies in a coordinated campaign to defeat the IED threat, according to the organization's mission statement.
JIEDDO officials have set up four training centers, known as Joint Centers of Excellence, one for each branch of service. The centers ensure troops have a chance to train before deployment with the equipment they will use in the IED fight and in conditions that more closely mirror theater situations, JIEDDO officials said. Training centers are located on the Marine base in Twentynine Palms, Calif., a Navy facility in Indian Head, Md., Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and the Army's Fort Irwin, Calif.
JIEDDO hosted an IED Defeat Seminar last week at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin. The four-day seminar was designed to identify gaps in counter-IED training as well as make participants aware of training JIEDDO now provides for units heading to Iraq and Afghanistan.
In his opening remarks at the seminar, Cone emphasized three important counter-IED training issues and encouraged the audience to make the training more of a priority in pre-deployment work-ups. He spoke of the need for better integration of technology onto the battlefield, the need to increase home station training and the importance of tailoring all counter-IED training to fit the audience.
Cone asked the leaders and trainers to start evaluating where changes can be made in home-station training. Then, shifting from training to communicating, he challenged leaders to share information at home and while forward deployed.
"We are a community of practice," he said. "If you're not participating in these VTCs (video teleconferences) we have, then you're a day late and a dollar short."
He said a breakdown in communication and information sharing is the leaders' fault and the troops lose as a result.
"We need to share information and ideas," Cone said. "Shame on us if we're doing something here at NTC that they're not doing at the Joint Readiness Training Center (on Fort Polk, La.)"
Switching back to training, Cone addressed JIEDDO's role in home-station training. He reminded leaders to take advantage of JIEDDO and the training centers' resources all the while recognizing their own responsibilities.
"We need to take an appetite suppressant when we talk of what JIEDDO can do for us," he said. "JIEDDO is a great asset, but ultimately, the responsibility of training soldiers and Marines lies with the commander."
Opening a two-hour panel discussion, Army Brig. Gen. Joe E. Ramirez Jr., deputy commanding general, Combined Arms Training Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, likened the IED fight to a game of chess.
"For every move we make, the enemy makes three," said Ramirez, a Houston native. "Multi-National Corp Iraq told me the enemy changes Techniques, Tactics and Procedures (TTP) every two to three weeks."
Ramirez, who served as deputy chief of staff for U.S. Central Command before being stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, echoed Cone's thoughts on information sharing.
"You can't rely on the last time you were there," he stressed to the audience. "If you haven't been to theater in the last four months-you're not up to date. Our biggest task is staying current and relevant."
Ramirez reminded the leaders and trainers of bi-monthly virtual teleconferences available to units all around the world. He said the feedback he receives from theater relates specifically to training and TTPs.
He urged the leaders and trainers at the seminar to place more emphasis on battle staff training.
"They need to address defeating not only the IEDs, but the network, the bomb maker and the financier," he said. "We need to assess how we train our battle staff."
Ramirez emphasized home station training needs to be more of a priority for reserve and active-duty units. He suggested changing the mobilization process to allow for pre-deployment training.
"The tip of the spear is absolutely the priority," said Ramirez, using a moniker commonly applied to forward deployed units. "We need to work harder to prepare them here to be the tip of the spear over there."
Another panel member, Marine Col. Niel E. Nelson, commanding officer of the Marine Corps' Engineer School located on Camp Lejeune, N.C., spoke of the importance of training troops at entry-level service schools.
"It's easier to form a habit than break one," Nelson said. "We get the kids right out of boot camp and the young lieutenants straight from The Basic School-and start teaching counter-IED techniques right then."
Nelson said instructors at the Marine Corps Engineer School teach that every movement is a route clearance movement.
"Teach that early enough," the 1984 graduate of San Diego State University said, "and they'll take it to theater with them whenever they deploy."
Nelson encouraged units across the Corps to conduct counter-IED training prior to attending Mojave Viper, the Marine Corps' premiere, live-fire pre-deployment training in Twentynine Palms, Calf.
Nelson's closing statement was met with a volley of "hooahs" from the Army, "oorahs" from the Marines and a scattering of applause from the audience.
"This isn't a Marine Corps thing or an Army thing," said the Bethpage, N.Y. native. "We might have different words and different uniforms, but we have the same mission - keep people alive, keep them aware and keep them going forward."
(Jennie Haskamp is a writer for Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization.)
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