Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Cadets from the 2nd Regiment at the 2013 Leader Development and Assessment Course inched down a gravel road in two parallel lines June 27 during the improvised explosive device training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Being ever so mindful of the looming disaster that might await them at every turn, the Cadets scanned the trail for holes, trash and misplaced brush possible disguising an IED. At the head of the line, a squad leader put up his hand, halting movement as he spotted wires on a guard rail. A split-second after stopping, a loud bang goes off in front of the Cadets alerting them of their misstep that could have cost them their lives had this been a real life situation.
The IED training exercise is designed to teach the future Army commissioned officers to identify and react to IEDs in the field due to the increased use of the device in actual combat situations.
Prior to walking the squad-led IED lanes, the Cadets are prepped in a classroom with background information, shown prop IED’s and then taken on a Cadre-led identification course.
Throughout the exercise we go over how to properly identify the type of IED, what signs could have alerted us to its presence, the best way to scan for IED’s in the field and the best way to deal with one once you have identified it, said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Joseph Ramey III, an IED Cadre member. “IEDs are a threat. They can be anywhere and they can be hidden to any degree. The whole thing here is to develop situational awareness.”
Ramey considers it one of the largest casualty producing weapons in the field and anticipates IEDs will continue to be a large part of future conflicts. While classroom instruction allows Cadets to become familiar with the different devices, moving through the lanes forces urgency and diligence, which can only be developed through experience.
“They’ve been very well disciplined,” said Ramey. “When something does go off they’re calm and they move as a unit. The worst thing that could happen is to have chaos take over.”
Though instructors go through the lanes with Cadets to facilitate the process, maintaining control is largely left up to the squad leadership and the Cadets themselves.
“It definitely has you thinking and making quick decisions on the spot,” said Cadet Jacob Asbury, Alpha Co., 2nd Regiment, a history student at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich. “After an IED goes off, you can’t sit there and wait, you have to react and react fast. I feel like a lot of the stuff we go over is in the classroom, so it’s really good to get [some time with] hands on and see how it actually is once you’re on the ground.”
The experience in the lanes gives the Cadets practice as leaders and also helps them to mentally prepare for anything they may see in the future.
“I think hands-on training is more efficient because it’s practical and realistic and that’s how our job’s going to be,” said Cadet Alex Box, Alpha Co., 2nd Regiment, a criminal justice student at the University of Dayton and Toledo, Ohio native. “I think…learning about IEDs is always going to be a vital part of our job.”
Story by Samantha Saldivar.