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Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) / Booby Traps


By definition, booby traps are disguised or well-hidden, victim-activated devices. The initiating object is going to be fairly obvious, as it is the object that the enemy hopes a soldier will interfere with in order to set off the trap. Booby traps rely on an unwary or distracted soldier touching or pulling a physical object (such as a war souvenir) or provide a too-easy access or simple solution to a problem (such as leaving only one door open in an otherwise secure building).

In an operational environment where booby traps have been used, soldiers must be trained to constantly question why things are positioned where they are or why the enemy might have left obvious routes open. The enemy will watch reactions and procedures executed when moving through an area. They will be looking for natural behavior and weaknesses in soldiers' drills. For example, in Vietnam, the Vietcong (VC) noticed soldiers liked to kick empty soda cans that were lying on the ground. It was not long before the US troops found that the VC were leaving explosive devices in empty cans lying alongside regular patrol routes. The devices were activated when the cans were kicked.

Many of the booby trap indicators mirror those of mines. These include areas where the locals do not enter, such as abandoned buildings and attractive items that are usually left alone.

  • Electrical wires, batteries, booby traps, and store items (clothes pegs, mouse traps, steel tubes, and springs).
  • Isolated boxes and containers along routes.
  • Abandoned vehicles, military equipment, weapons, uniforms, and papers.
  • Trip wires, string, and cables.
  • Disturbed soil and sand.
  • Dust.
  • Footprint trails that stop suddenly.

Buildings are excellent sites for booby trap warfare. If unsecured buildings have to be entered and occupied, assume that they are booby-trapped. Likely targets are restrictive areas like doorways, windows, and areas of approach that are typically used. These are likely targets because people will have to move through them. These areas are likely to be booby-trapped. Teams must develop alternate ways of entering the building where the enemy is unlikely to have set traps. Once inside, hallways, interior doorways, staircases, and floors provide restricted access and are again prime sites. Any remaining furniture or household objects will have to be cleared prior to use.

The search and clearance of buildings, caves, abandoned vehicles, or any suspect area is a specialized skill that requires expert knowledge of booby trap types and functions. The clearance procedures are also highly complex, requiring skilled soldiers and specialized equipment and training. The task of booby trap clearance and disposal is an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) mission. If booby traps are located, EOD personnel should be tasked for clearance and disposal support.

In all cases, the minimum number of soldiers with the largest tactically acceptable spacing should be engaged in clearance operations to reduce collateral casualties. If operations require troops to enter suspect buildings without EOD support, the guidelines outlined below should be adopted.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:59:27 ZULU