Photo Information

Marines with Alpha Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, participated in a week-long, Counter-IED course aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 2-5, 2015. The course included classes covering individual preparedness in an improvised explosive device environment, small unit leader considerations in an IED environment, homemade explosives and a metal detector operator’s course. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Krista James/ Released) 

Photo by Cpl. Krista James

2nd CEB Marines counter terrorism in CIED course

6 Mar 2015 | Cpl. Krista James 2nd Marine Division

Step by slow step the Marine searches for improvised explosive devices. Careful not to go too fast, he sweeps back and forth making sure he covers every inch before him to ensure two things; his safety and the safety of the Marines to his left and right. One misstep and it could be his last.

Marines with Alpha Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, participated in a week-long, Counter-IED course March 2-5. The course was designed to teach and challenge Marines on the dangers and counter measures of IEDs in a combat zone.

“We started on Monday going over IED indicators,” said 2nd Lt. Ian Simpson, a platoon commander with Alpha Company, “They looked for anything that might be out of the ordinary, something that doesn’t belong in nature or naturally grow. Tuesday and Wednesday we went over metal detector lanes and holley sticks, listening to different tones you hear for what object you’re going over.”

A holley stick is a long metal rod utilized by combat engineer Marines to help them feel for any wires that are attached to an IED. It is implemented by scraping along the ground and entrances to compounds for trip wires that could detonate any IEDs.

“The main purpose of CIED training is so the Marines understand the biggest threat on the battlefield is the IED,” said Paul Albaugh, a training specialist with Marine Corps Engineer School. “It’s the most violent weapon on the battlefield, the most casualty producing weapon being used by terrorists, and we give the Marines the tools to both recognize the presence of an IED and respond to one. We then expect them to conduct the five c’s which are confirm the presence of an IED, clear the area, check the area, cordon off the area and control the area.”

Cpl. Dakota Ashwood, a squad leader with Alpha Co., said that attending the CIED course helps his unit maintain a combat ready and proficient mindset in the combat engineer field.

“Everything we’re doing here is just one aspect of being a combat engineer,” said Ashwood. “Combat engineers are proficient in demolitions, mobility, counter-mobility and building wire obstacles.  Becoming proficient in this will help us become more polished, well-rounded combat engineers. Once we’re proficient in one aspect we can make sure we’re proficient in another aspect of  our job, so we can be successful wherever we go.”

Albaugh said that CIED training is essential to 2nd CEB’s mission accomplishment because IED’s aren’t just centralized to Afghanistan, but are a global threat and will continue to be a global threat so having effective tactics, techniques and procedures in place is important.

Ashwood said that a big part of maintaining mission accomplishment is making sure that the unit is also maintaining cohesion with each other in order to keep trust within the unit.

“Building unit cohesion is always done by being out in the field together,” said Ashwood. “I think brotherhood is forged from bad times and bad situations and you can’t really have a strong or firm engineer platoon without a little bit of struggling and heavy lifting together.”

Likewise, Simpson is looking to see how his non-commissioned officers handle new leadership roles along with how his platoon is becoming more cohesive as a unit.

“We are trying to evaluate which one of our NCOs have a strong understanding of what’s going on and which ones are stepping up into those leadership roles,” said Simpson. “We’re looking for them to step up in the squad leader and fire team leader positions and to really take control instead of us micromanaging them.”

All of these aspects of training were finally tied together during a culminating event that tested the Marines, in a realist scenario, on their ability to patrol into an area using the holley stick and metal detector, and to react to a simulated IED explosion in their vicinity.

“The culminating event, which is an immediate action lane with simulated IEDs, is pretty realistic,” said Albaugh. “The devices that we use are pertinent to what they may see in a theatre of operation to include the possibility of a hoax IED, but the IEDs we use also have simulated detonations so it’s a combination of air and powder and it really gets them in the mindset of it were an actual IED, how they would recognize and react to it.”

Ashwood said that the best part of the course is the culminating event, because the instructors do an amazing job of making sure the students understand everything they’ve learned. The culminating event also is where everything learned comes together and is applied while under an immense amount of stress. The instructors create this stress by firing blanks from machine guns, and by utilizing dust cloud IEDs that explode to simulate a real IED.

Ashwood said that each time he attends this course he takes away a few new things that he can share with his fellow Marines. He hopes that maybe those lessons can help keep them safe during deployments.

“I’ve taken away how to use things like jammers that block radio frequencies used to detonate remote controlled IEDs, how to effectively use a holley stick, and how to maintain an extra 15 feet of standoff when interrogating a possible IED,” said Ashwood. “All of these things I’ve taken away, and some things I’ve taken away from courses in the past, have helped me keep myself and other Marines safe in country.”

Both Albaugh and Ashwood agree that the course is beneficial to Marines who take it, but Ashwood advised that the class is only as beneficial as the effort the Marines put into it.

“Take it seriously,” said Ashwood. “Take time to ask the instructors to explain things more in depth. Don’t leave the course if you don’t have a firm understanding of any of the enablers that they teach you out here. Make sure that you ask and don’t leave here without taking in as much as you can, because for some this could be the only CIED training they get before being deployed into a real-life situation. This is where you can learn everything; the tools are here, you just have to take advantage of them.”