February 6, 2015

Replicating accurate unconventional warfare threats

By Capt. Jessica Edmonds and 1st Lt. Evan FitzGerald, Commander and Executive Officer
Vanguard MICO, RSS, 11th ACR
Photos by Sgt. David Beckstrom, 11th ACR Public Affairs
A training aid for real-world improvised explosive device emplacement signs and markers are on display at the Terrorist Explosive Network shop here. This display helps Soldiers spot roadside bombs before they can be detonated.

Throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, the prevalence of roadside bombs and unconventional tactics brought about the development of counter insurgency operations.

At the National Training Center, the unconventional or irregular fight is one that occurs at the same time as force-on-force battles during training rotations. One organization that deals with irregular tactics is the Terrorist Explosive Network of the Vanguard Military Intelligence Company, Regimental Support Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment.

The TEN is able to build simulated roadside bombs which are used by the 11th ACR’s opposing force to prepare rotational training units for deployment. The TEN combines the most up-to-date information with lessons learned from more than 10 years of continual conflict. These simulated roadside bombs enhance the training environment and exposes training units to the most accurate and potentially deadly situations they are likely to encounter.

“The TEN-shop fabricates [improvised explosive devices] to provide the realistic replication for the 11th ACR, every rotation,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Ingalls, platoon sergeant with the TEN. “We work to enable the rotational units to meet their training objectives by making them counter the IED threat on the battlefield.”

The 11th ACR uses pre-existing infrastructure, to include towns, roads, checkpoints, hostile paramilitary and partisan forces to harass training units using a combination of guerilla attacks, simulated roadside bombs and psychological warfare. The OPFOR replicates tactics currently used by terrorist organizations by applying lessons learned from deployed United States forces.

Several teams on Fort Irwin collaborate to create this hybrid environment. These teams include the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, the TEN, Operations Group and emplacement teams of the 11th ACR. Information on how to employ the training roadside bombs is gathered from JIEDDO and several databases with information on the most current IED technology, techniques and procedures. Soldiers from MICO replicate roadside bombs by using four of the five main components of an IED: the switch or trigger, initiator, power source, and container. Due to replication safety precautions, the fifth component of the IED, the main charge, is replaced with a light linked to a noise amplification device which signals a successful detonation.

“We teach rotational training units how to react to an IED in a safe and controlled environment,” said 2nd Lt. Derek McCarty, platoon leader of the TEN. “We have a close working relationship with JIEDDO that helps us to determine what sort of IED threats the training unit may experience down range.”

Utilizing similar off-the-shelf materials as insurgent groups, the TEN quickly produces a variety of simulated roadside bombs. The TEN Soldiers tailor these training aids to the NTC operating environment to ensure RTU Soldiers are aware of the effects. Simulated roadside bombs are emplaced around the training area and often destroy “soft” targets, such as logistical convoys on main supply routes. It is the job of trained OPFOR Soldiers to strategically emplace these training aids; it then becomes the job of OPS GRP Soldiers to serve as adjudicators, determining what damage a detonation causes.

The Soldiers from the TEN not only build roadside bombs for the NTC training environment, but they also teach the Blackhorse Insurgent Academy. A five-day course taught by MICO Soldiers provides Blackhorse Soldiers with pyrotechnic safety information and emplacement techniques. The focus on proper employment techniques enhances OPFOR’s complex attack capabilities during the wide area security fight, which requires the training units to put themselves at additional risk in protecting populations, forces and infrastructure.

The U.S. military continues to gather information and adapt training to match the evolving design and use of roadside bombs by adversaries. With this knowledge, the TEN replicates and uses tactics similar to what today’s enemy has to offer. It is imperative that the 11th ACR and other NTC organizations present training units with the most realistic combat scenarios possible. Replicating the most accurate unconventional warfare threats prepares Soldiers for the current combat environment.

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