CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- As part of a weeklong deployment for training exercise, Marines and sailors with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, based out of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., underwent counter improvised explosive device training at the Tactical Vehicle Simulation Center aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 13-14.
The exercise took place at the Tactical Site Exploitation training lanes between Camp Mateo and Camp Talega in the upper north-eastern part of Camp Pendleton. Instruction began with a course on individual preparedness in an IED environment that outlined various aspects of IED components. Marines were taught the different indicators, locations, and observational methods used to identify the threat facing today's front-line warriors.
Instructors, all veteran Marines now out of active duty service, utilized the informal lecture method of teaching with lessons, polls, and question and answer sessions for the students. All led to the second, practical application phase of learning.
"This particular training is called lane training," said Jeffrey Roach, a Marine Corps Engineering School training instructor and a native of O'Claire, Wisc. "It's the culmination of several hours of not only in-classroom time, but also of practical application where they're trained on the essential subjects of learning confirmation tools such as the Holley stick - And also observational tools like binoculars, ACOGS (Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight), and the RCO's (Rifle Combat Optics) on your weapons."
Simulation lanes afforded the participants an opportunity to get a first-hand look and direction on the different counter IED tools used in combat. The Holley stick, named after fallen explosive ordnance disposal technician Gunnery Sgt. Floyd Holley, is a 15-foot-long collapsible pole with a hook on the end used to identify suspected volatile threats on the ground. By using the tool through a small scenario lane, Marines were able to experience the instrument’s capabilities and apply the effective techniques.
An observation lane was set up for Marines to spot IED indicators using binoculars at ranges varying from 25 to over 125 yards. Observers were challenged with maintaining situational awareness as they navigated a lane that contained makeshift pressure cookers, propane tanks, and loose wires.
"What we hope they take away is not only the terminal learning objectives they learned from their first class," said Roach, a retired master gunnery sergeant with 24 years of experience, who deployed to the Al Anbar Province in Fallujah, Iraq, from February 2004 through late September 2004. "But we also hope they take away the awareness of how dangerous an IED environment is, and how well they can be prepared for that with their situational awareness and their key in understanding the locations, the components and the indicators."
Building on the knowledge of the first day’s instruction, day two found the Marines on their simulated counter IED exercise patrol over the rocky mountainous terrain of the one to two kilometer long TSE training lanes with a crash course on how to call in unexploded ordinance (UXO) and casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) reports.
"Squad formations, hand signals, patrolling, strategy. It's a good refresher of everything; the IED lanes are really helpful," said Pfc. Darrin Goodrich, an H&HS administrative specialist and a native of Buchanan, Mich. "They never really went as in-depth on IED's at MCT (Marine Combat Training) as we're going through here. Here, they teach us what to look for, indicators and a lot of hands-on stuff - especially since the instructors were all Marines, they understand what we're going through. They're well versed on how to teach us, how we talk, how we are as Marines."
Using experience to teach the younger generation is one of the hallmarks of the Marine Corps. Stressing the importance of situational awareness via simulated IED attacks and enlightening the young Marines with strategy was what encompassed day two of patrol training.
The class was made up of Marines from a variety of shops within H&HS, 76 percent of whom were lance corporals or below, and 81 percent of which had never deployed. Even still, all in attendance could appreciate the importance of and pride in embodying a force of readiness - a history that the Marine Corps strives to live up to every day through training.
"When we came to Somalia in December of 1992, and I'm sure there can be much more current examples of this, but that's the one that jumps out at me - we brought out with us 11th Marines and we all know what 11th Marines do, they're an artillery regiment. There wasn't any artillery missions in Somalia, and that three star general, Lt. Gen. Johnson, said, 'Thus thou are now a provisional rifle regimen.' And he turned all of 11th Marines into, like what we all learned from day one, right? Every Marine a rifleman," said Roach.
"In fact, the first Marine that was killed in January of 1993 was a wireman out of the regimental comm. shop. He was on patrol right around Mogadishu and I'm sure he didn't think he was going to be doing any patrols, or it certainly wasn't the first thing on his mind. My answer is that every Marine's got to be prepared to be that rifleman - every Marine's got to be prepared to go on patrol. Whether it's a security patrol or route clearing - And they've got to be able to do those essentials we teach them in boot camp."
The essentials taught at boot camp and then some, with Marine going through a simulated contact front scenario to wrap up the second day's field exercise. A supplemental class on homemade explosive devices, which went over ingredients and physical indicators, topped off the final course of instruction.
"The common home ingredients in explosives used in Iraq and Afghanistan - it's good for us to know that,
'Hey, that's a common ingredient in HME's'," said Cpl. Rosa Salazar, an H&HS personnel administrator and a native of Houston, Texas. "The instructors are all veterans so they can share their personal experience and they're someone we can relate to. They're very good, they show us why it's so important even though we haven't deployed yet or might be with a non-deployable unit - It's always good to be ready."
Orienting the Marines on the situation, mission, execution, administration and command of the IED environment was the goal set at Camp Pendleton; not far from where a lot of those fundamentals are first ingrained in the minds of spawning devil dogs.
Instead of praying for an incompetent enemy and resting on the day-to-day reality of life in garrison, the participating Marines of H&HS can rest assured they've trained for the new landscape of contemporary combat.