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Hawaii Marines employ new interactive bomb trainer

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Though the suite of four tan trailers doesn’t look like much from the outside, a short trip inside quickly confirms its worth.

Decked out with a plethora of high-definition TVs and intricately crafted visual displays, the trailers form the base’s new Mobile Counter-IED Interactive Trainer. The MCIT, which is geared toward junior Marines and officers, provides a practical education on one of the most significant and deadly threats currently facing troops on the ground — the improvised explosive device, or IED.

“If we can save one Marine’s life by sending him or her through this trainer, then our mission is accomplished,” said Chris Shott, the MCIT site lead.

Approximately 25 Marines with Transportation Service Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 3, were among the first to employ the MCIT at Boondocker Training Area, Sept. 18, 2012.

Their journey began in the first trailer, where they received an overview of IED components recently employed by enemy forces in overseas theaters. Colorful plastic jugs, lumpy bags of fertilizer and scrap material fashioned into pressure plates were all too familiar objects for those previously deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Anyone, anywhere around the world can find junk and make a bomb out of it,” Shott said.

A moment later, a grainy video of an insurgent speaking his native tongue appeared on the screen. English subtitles flashed across it as he shared instructions with a fellow insurgent, affording the Marines a glimpse into their enemy’s mindset. Next, they watched another in which a junior Marine described his fears and experiences during his first combat deployment.

Stepping into another dimly lit trailer decorated like an IED factory, the Marines set to explore IED indicators. Meticulously constructed visual displays revealed hidden bomb components in order to educate the Marines on how to find them. A subsequent video rolled, showing insurgents how to keep materials hidden.

“The insurgent talks to the viewers like they’re fellow insurgents,” Shott said. “He trains them how to effectively hide IED components so opposing forces don’t find them, which brings them into the insurgent mindset.”

In the third trailer, the Marines learned the nine principles of IED combat. They were familiarized with electronic warfare equipment used to counter radio-controlled IEDs and refreshed on casualty evacuation procedures. Finally, they received an operation order for the MCIT’s last stage — combat scenarios simulated through an interactive video game.

Instead of employing a “death by Powerpoint” approach to training, Shott described the simulated combat scenarios as “hands-on.” Teams of motor transportation operators crawled into armored vehicle mock-ups as machine gunners and drivers. Viewing TV screens in front of them, they navigated their mounted vehicle convoy through a detailed Afghan city.

In an adjacent section of the room, a team of fellow Marines acted as insurgents on the ground, the convoy’s opposing force in the simulation. They clicked away on their game controllers, emplacing IEDs in specific locations and equipping themselves with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. Another Marine used his controller to guide an insurgent cameraman to a vantage point to capture video footage of the attack.

“The training was very realistic and easy to learn because it was hands-on,” said Pfc. Garrett Callahan, 19, a motor transport operator with CLB-3 from Hayward, Calif. “It gave me a better idea of what to expect in a situation involving an IED, but also helped bring my mind to focus on what was important.”

With each different team came a new scenario. Drivers guided their vehicles through crowded streets and gunners rattled attackers with storms of machine gun rounds; together they watched for IEDs along their route. They simultaneously reported each event through their command structure while a computer graded their responses.

Cpl. Steven Haley, a motor transport operator with CLB-3, said the scenarios allowed the users to experience the variation in IED placement and employment. He described them as “much more in-depth” than the IED lane training he received before deploying to Afghanistan.

“Looking at ways in which insurgents attacked us gave us the opportunity to think like them,” said Haley, a 21 year old from Kennewick, Wash. “This helped improve our understanding of their mindset, and for our junior Marines, to experience a situation involving IEDs before even leaving on a deployment.”

The MCIT’s hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., from Monday to Friday. Units may schedule its use through the MCB Hawaii Range Facility Management Support System, or by calling Lee Fry at 808-257-1110.

Article by Cpl. Reece Lodder, Combat Logistics Battalion-3