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IED class improves Soldiers safety

By Sgt. Michael J. Carden

CAMP TAJI, Iraq (Army News Service, March 7, 2005) - A special Army unit in Iraq now has the mission to teach Soldiers about improvised explosive devices.

Until recently, there was no unit or section committed solely to learning and teaching Soldiers about IEDs, officials said. A unit's knowledge and steps in reacting to IEDs were only based on past experiences in their area.

Now, because of research, data and information gathered from throughout the country, Multi-National Corps - Iraq's Electronic Warfare Coordination Cell is able to teach these findings to Soldiers, to give them a better understanding of the IED threat. The Soldiers learn recognition, characteristics and placement of IEDs, as well as how to use counter-IED systems, said Staff Sgt. Bruce Boardman, tactics, techniques and procedures noncommissioned officer, EWCC, MNC-I.

"We'll give an (IED awareness class) to just one person if that's what it takes to save a Soldier's life," Boardman said.

Boardman and Sgt. 1st Class Robert Baskervill, another noncom in the cell, traveled to Camp Taji on March 2 to give the Soldiers of the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, an IED awareness and counter IED systems class.

"IEDs are obviously a big threat. They account for a lot of the casualties in Iraq," said. Capt. Ken Lizotte, operations officer-in-charge, 603rd ASB, 3rd ID. "I like the fact that we have two subject matter experts here who understand what IEDs are all about and who can emphasize the importance of awareness."

During the two hour class, Baskervill and Boardman spoke about the general characteristics of IEDS, and described several different types.

The primary types of IED encountered by troops in Iraq are command-wire, remote, and vehicle born IEDs, or VBIEDs. Command-wire IEDs have a detonation switch, such as a garage door opener or washing machine timer, at one end of the wire and the explosives at the other end. Remote detonated IEDs are ignited by a transmitter, such as a cordless phone or hand-held radio. VBIEDs are vehicles turned bomb. They may have an extra antenna and can be detonated by using either the command-wire or remote detonation methods, according to Baskervill.

Baskervill and Boardman also talked about how and where insurgents may place an IED.

"(Insurgents) will put IEDs almost anywhere," Boardman said. "Placed on power poles or guard rails, buried in the median or low shoulder of the road, or hidden in barrels, tires and trash are all possibilities. A lot of times, they will make sure there is a wall or canal between them and the IED. That way they think they have a better chance to escape or go unnoticed."

"The enemy is very smart," Boardman said. "They're not just farmers with pitchforks."

"(Insurgents) shouldn't be underestimated," Baskervill added. "Many of them have engineering and electronic backgrounds. They're building (IEDs) from scratch."

Along with teaching the awareness class, Boardman also joins several different convoys and dismounted patrols each week to assess how Soldiers react to IED attacks or IEDs that have been planted but not detonated, he said.

He stressed to the class that Soldiers should stay focused on their mission, and pay attention to the surrounding environment, when they are in convoy or on patrol. "The local people know if there's something going on," Boardman said. "After you've patrolled the same areas a few times, you begin to make mental notes about the amount of locals or traffic out and about. If, on a certain day, there's no traffic or no people walking the streets, that could be a tell-tale sign of an IED or a planned attack. You have to look for things out of the ordinary like that."

Baskervill and Boardman also talked about the importance of properly operating and executing tactics, techniques and procedures when using their unit's counter-IED system during a convoy.

"Before the counter-IED systems were put out, the kill ratio of a detonated IED was 70 percent," Boardman said. "Now that we have the systems, the kill ratio of a detonated IED is 30 percent. That's why it's so important for units to be aware of our class and the EWCC."

"Because of this class, I'm more knowledgeable and I'll be more observant," said Staff Sgt. Richard Samuels, motor pool, NCOIC, 603rd ASB, 3rd ID. "I learned a lot about how to react to and identify IEDs, which will better my chances of survival during convoys and patrols."

"The IED situation will get better," Baskervill said. "But hopefully (the EWCC) can help people become more educated to have a better understanding of their (counter-IED) systems' capabilities and overall IED awareness."

(Editor's note: Sgt. Michael Carden serves with MNC-I Public Affairs.)


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