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Joint effort neutralizes threat; Together troops defuse situation

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 5/02/2004

Story by Cpl. G. Lane Miley

CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti(April 28, 2004) -- A drill designed to better prepare the camp for a bomb threat tested the abilities of the force protection Marines and incorporated nearby French explosive ordnance disposal specialists here April 28. The exercise also gave the U.S. EOD team a chance to see how they could better aid in a situation like this.

A normal day on post could quickly turn into a life or death situation for the force protection Marines assigned to U.S. Marine Forces Central Command-Djibouti in a scenario like the one the exercise presented.

The Marines were standing their post at the entry control point when one of their own, Sgt. Frederick B. Keen, pulled up to the gate fitted with a mock improvised explosive device. For the scenario, a group of terrorists attacked Keen, held him at gunpoint and strapped the bomb to his chest. He was then told to return to his headquarters. The attackers told the Marine if he tried to remove the harness it would detonate.

Explosive ordnance disposal specialists, who recently arrived, and are currently here supporting Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa designed the simulated explosives and served as observers for the exercise, looking on as the force protection Marines and French EOD soldiers handled the problem.

When Keen arrived at the gate, Cpl. Isaac E. Alexander, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the post, took control of the situation. He had his Marines take cover, isolated the explosive-laden Marine and began taking the necessary steps to neutralize the situation.

"This was actually the first IED of this sort we've seen, and for the most part things went well," said Alexander, an amphibious assault vehicle crew chief, whose job here is providing security to the coalition forces aboard Camp Lemonier. "It caught us off guard, but all my Marines did well."

The Morgantown, W. Va., native pulled his Marines back from the immediate area, but posted them where they would have a clear shot if a secondary attack came. Alexander questioned Keen from behind a concrete wall. He asked questions to keep the Marine calm, but at the same time asked how he became fitted with the device. With that information he quickly contacted his leadership in the force protection operations center who then deployed emergency vehicles to the site.

The Assistant Operations Officer for MARCENT-Djibouti, Capt. Adam M. King, said this is the first EOD emergency exercise the camp has conducted that incorporates all of the key players.

Alexander continued to calm Keen while the French EOD team unloaded their vehicle. He asked Keen questions about life back home to take his mind off the situation.

Keen serves as the corporal of the guard for Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, and is responsible for posting and relieving the Marines each day. The Clarion, Pa., native, said he was glad to be able to help train the young Marines. He said the better trained the Marines on post are, the safer the service members aboard the camp are.

This training was scheduled before CJTF-HOA's EOD detachment arrived, so the American bomb specialists observed the action and gave their input as needed.

This exercise gave the French an opportunity to practice removing an improvised device from a live hostage.

For some of the force protection Marines this was also their first opportunity dealing with a situation like this. That was the case for Marine Pfc. Michael J. Schoomaker.

"It was good training. You learn something new every day. This will definitely keep us on our toes and keep us ready for anything," said the Poughkeepsie, N.Y., native.

Alexander said he learned new tactics to calm an individual and said the experience will help him choose more covered positions for his Marines, should they face an actual situation in the future.

As the French EOD team moved in and removed the device, their officer in charge, Capt. Jean-Pierre Garbin, said the technicians did a good job. He said aside from the language barrier there were no problems. They performed very well, he said.

The joint explosive ordnance disposal training is something the French and U.S. service members alike said they would like to continue. For now, the troops with MARCENT-Djibouti and CJTF-HOA can rest easy with knowing that in a real situation the force protection Marines and nearby EOD teams are on the job.

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