MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- It’s a Marine’s worst nightmare. His convoy has just been hit by an improvised explosive device, or IED, and three of his fellow squad members have been killed. The convoy is in a panic and the air is filled with bullets and flaming shrapnel. After the chaos settles, reality sets in and everyone realizes they have lost their brothers and nothing can bring them back because there are no second chances--until now.
Company B, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, completed the IED portion of their Mojave Viper pre-deployment training and learned that sometimes there are second chances, and even third or fourth chances.
“The purpose of IED Lane isn’t to avoid the IEDs,” said Sgt. John C. Douglass, an IED simultaneous actions instructor with the company. “We want them to get hit, so we can see their reactions and help them improve in preparation for a real IED.”
Marines like Cpl. Daniel T. Bell, and Cpl. Paul M. Martin, both infantrymen with the company, sat through classes on casualty evacuation, vehicle recovery, IED recognition, and reaction to an IED before they mounted four vehicles to go on a convoy, which was hit by several simulated IEDs.
Martin, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who extended his contract for the upcoming scheduled deployment, said the new Mojave Viper training, which he didn’t receive before his last deployment, would definitely help save lives and protect Marines.
“There is more emphasis on personal knowledge and preparing for IEDs now than there was when I deployed last time,” the Garner, N.C., native said. “We no longer have to wait to get hit by an IED to get the experience. That increases our effectiveness big time.”
Bell, a Martinsburg, W. Va., native, agreed and said the Marine Corps was doing a great job giving Marines a better education about what they are up against.
“We understand the fight more now,” explained Bell, who is also an OIF veteran. “When a Marine gets hit for the first time he won’t freeze up any more because its muscle memory now, we are prepared for it better than ever before.”
When the Marines finished the classes, they headed toward Douglass and his alley of explosives. This is where they used the knowledge they learned that morning. They mounted two HMMWVs and two 7-tons and started the journey down the treacherous valley.
“After they go through this training, they will stand a better chance of doing what they need to do to survive sustaining any injuries,” said Douglass, a Staatsburg, N.Y., native.
Douglass, an Operation Enduring Freedom veteran, nodded as he watched the Marines after they got hit by a smoke bomb used to simulate an IED. They provided security and had litter teams ready to get the wounded away from the explosion, and to his surprise they even found the “trigger man”, an instructor who was hiding in the bushes a few meters from the IED.
Marines who have deployed before are not the only ones to benefit from Mojave Viper; new Marines preparing for their first deployment also value the additional training.
“It helps us get used to the desert atmosphere,” said Pfc. Christopher B. Gibson, a rifleman who has never deployed. “The training makes you more aware, and helps fight tunnel vision, so you pay attention to everything around you.”
Though the military,will never have the means to bring someone back from death or serious injury, the Marine Corps is doing its best to prevent and prolong those horrible fates. Increased pre-deployment training, like Mojave Viper, and IED awareness are just a few of the tools the Corps is giving its warriors to help them survive.