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Army set to enhance counter-IED training for Soldiers

May 27, 2011

By Sarah M. Rivette

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 26, 2011) -- Three years after development of counter-improvised explosive device training lanes, the Army is poising itself to standardize and enhance the technology that helps Soldiers defeat the signature weapon in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 39 training lanes are located at 37 Army installations around the world and help Soldiers build the skills they need to detect and defeat IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers learn the basics on a computer, called Virtual Battlespace, before going to the field.

"This will replicate the area of operations as closely as we can get it here in the United States," said Donald Karcher, chief of operational counter IED training at Training and Doctrine Command. "This can increase the realism of training."

The lanes were originally funded by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization in 2008 and were designed by each installation and tailored to their specific needs. The lanes were turned over to the Army for sustainment and soon TRADOC will start to examine how to standardize the lanes and update the training software, said Karcher.

That standardization will create a baseline of competencies that each lane must train Soldiers on and will mandate certain types of training scenarios, he said.

Computer-simulation training happens before the Soldiers take to the lanes and makes training more efficient, said Karcher. In the classroom, an entire company can learn how to clear a route by using interconnected monitors. If something goes wrong, the unit can stop and discuss the learning points as they go.

Once on the lanes, the Soldiers use the skills learned in the classroom to detect IEDs along a route that is built to look like a village in southeast Asia. If a unit fails to identify a training IED, an effects simulator is triggered and pyrotechnics and loud noises follow.

"You can't simulate a real blast, but we try our best to prepare the Soldier," said Ron Doxtrader, a counter-IED training specialist with TRADOC.

With the lanes located at home installations, units don't have to travel far to become proficient in counter IED tactics.

"The whole point is to give them the home station capability so the first time that they see this training is not at a [National Training Center] location or a mission-rehearsal exercise," said Donald Gregg, program analyst at Headquarters Department of the Army, Training Simulations and Systems.

The fact that the lanes are always accessible to a unit preparing for a deployment gives unit commanders the opportunity to tailor training to the Soldiers strengths and weaknesses. In the end, that just means better training and, perhaps, faster reaction time.

"We want these lanes to prepare the units to go to NTC and it works with that and closes the loop," said Karcher. "If we are aware of what units are doing well or having problems with at the NTC, we can convey that to the lanes and prepare the units."

The lanes are based at major Army installations in the United States, two in Germany and one in Korea. There are also lanes available for National Guard and Reserve training at mobilization sites.

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