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Joint IED Task Force helping defuse insurgency's threat

By Rey Guzman

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 18, 2005) – In an effort to combat the leading cause of troop casualties in Iraq, the Department of Defense has put together a task force to help minimize the impact of improvised explosive devices.

The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Task Force was established as a means of collaborating efforts among military branches and international agencies to help eliminate the threat posed by IEDs.

“The task force was put together as an Army Task Force in the fall of 2003, and made joint in July of 2004,” said Christine DeVries, spokesperson for the Joint IED Defeat Task Force. “We’re Army-led (in terms of the number of representatives) but we have Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. We’re also inter-service, interagency and multinational.”

Based on the task force’s new directive, the JIEDD TF represents the “Department of Defense’s wide-ranging efforts in fighting the IED threat” and is led by Brig. Gen. Joseph Votel, director of the JIEDD TF.

IEDs are defined as make-shift or “homemade” bombs often used by enemy forces to destroy military convoys. They are currently the leading cause of casualties to troops deployed in Iraq.

The JIEDD TF is responsible for pulling together all DoD efforts to solve the deadly IED problem faced by the troops in theater. The task force currently operates under the direction of the deputy secretary of defense, and has been alloted $1.23 billion for the current budget cycle.

According to DeVries, approximately 140 members report to the Task Force while a “couple hundred” more contribute through other organizations or contractors.

“We’re getting information in almost real time,” she said. “What we are doing is taking a holistic approach to the IED problem – that means with technology, training and intelligence.”

Technology becomes JIEDD TF’s first concern

During the early stages of the IED problem, Task Force officials believed that technology was the best way to defeat the threat.

“The first items that we helped with were the up-armored Humvees, the add-on armor to protect from the blasts and the small-arms protective inserts that go inside the outer tactical vests,” said Col. Lamont Woody, deputy of the JIEDD TF. “Since then we have gone on to counter radio controlled initiators that the enemy has been using. In other words, we have gone out and tried to figure out how we counter the radio controlled threat.”

Since 2003, the JIEDD TF has invested about $378 million toward the acquisition of technology to counteract radio-controlled devices used to detonate IEDs. The devices, called Countering Radio-Controlled IED Devices – Electronic Warfare, or “jammers,” exist in six vehicle-mounted forms to detect and prevent potential IEDs.

“We have done a lot of research and study, and started to get the production lines in America spun up to get the actual jammers on the vehicles and to the troops that are deployed,” Woody said. “Our goal is to reduce the casualties and to make sure that the troops have the very best TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures), and the very best equipment that we can provide them.”

IED casualty rate decreases

Woody, who is responsible for joint operations and integration for the JIEDD TF, said that overall IED casualty rates have declined since the inception of the task force, despite an increase in IED usage by the Iraqi insurgency.

According to JIEDD TF statistics, there has been a 45 percent decrease in the rate of IED casualties since April 2004. An estimated 30-40 percent of IEDs are found and rendered safe before they are able to be detonated.

In addition to the improvements in Soldiers’ armor, vehicle protection and TTP, Woody credits this decreased casualty rate and increased bomb-detection trend to the task force’s field assessment teams.

Woody says that these field assessment teams analyze the sequence of events before an IED explosion, but do so during the post-blast period. They then take the information they collect and forward it to commanders in the field, providing them with advice and indicating any potential changes to the enemy’s own TTP.

“We have a way that we go and get that info back so that we can analyze it,” Woody said. “We’re trying to be able to be as flexible as the enemy and trying to get out in front.”

Currently, the JIEDD TF is focusing on training as the key to defeating the IED problem. The task force has a Tactical Advisory Team which uses a “multi-echelon” approach to training in areas such as IED awareness, non-standard operations, training strategies and IED-counter tactics. The advisory team has also set up a Web site where deployed units can remain updated with new TTPs developed since their mandatory pre-deployment training.

“The best sensor we have for detecting an IED is an individual Soldier’s or Marine’s eyes,” DeVries said. “What we are trying to do is get information about what they are seeing right now back here and into the training programs right away so that as we train (others) before they head over, what they are being trained here, at their home station training, more closely mirrors what they are going to see.”

Three main IED classifications exist

IEDs are classified into one of three explosive types – package, vehicle-borne and suicide bomb IEDs. While all three are considered severe threats to Coalition forces in Iraq, package or roadside IEDs are responsible for the highest number of casualties.

“The roadside IED is the leading (cause of casualty) because of the sheer number, but they are all deadly,” Woody said. “When you are that guy catching that round, they’re all equal, and we’re going after all three of them equally with the same amount of enthusiasm and force.”

When asked if the large number of IED detonations was deterring the Coalition’s efforts of training the Iraqi security forces, Woody said that “just the opposite” has occurred.

“It’s giving those young Iraqis more momentum to protect their own nation,” Woody said. “I mean think about that, that’s their soccer field, that’s their neighborhood, that’s the places where they want their brothers and sisters to be able to walk to school. I think the Iraqis are making the difference.”

Woody also said that the work of the U.S. ground forces have been a critical element in helping defeat IEDs, which not only target Coalition troops, but innocent civilians as well.

“There’s a lot of reason to believe that the moment is swinging our way and it’s mainly (because of) our Soldiers and Marines, those troops on the ground,” he said. “Just their mentality, their ability to adapt, they’re smart. They’re the reason we are going to win this war.”

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