The U.S. Army National Guard is ramping up training opportunities for troops to fight back against the deadliest weapon in war zones-the improvised explosive device (IED). With an ultimate goal of increasing practice while decreasing travel costs, the guard is funding dedicated training lanes across the United States to give soldiers the skills they need to stay safe in any situation.
The push for counter-IED training lanes started in 2009, when the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) funded dozens of ranges, including nine for the National Guard. Following this initial joint funding, the U.S. Army supported the development of nine more lanes with Overseas Contingency Operations funds. Finally, the state-level guard offices began developing six sites, sometimes with monetary assistance from the National Guard Bureau.
When the guard took over funding of the projects, they eliminated many of the requirements mandated by the JIEDDO funding. As a result, the sites were developed in a more cost-effective manner. By minimizing cosmetics, obtaining used supplies and selecting inexpensive construction materials, the guard freed up money to ultimately build more complex lanes.
According to Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Brown, ARNG, noncommissioned officer in charge of the National Guard Bureau's Asymmetric Warfare Cell, the long-term training vision is to have counter-IED courses in all 28 locations where the guard's brigade combat teams are placed. By spreading out facilities across the nation, they can ensure that teams are close enough to receive annual training without spending time away from home.
However, the process of training troops against IEDs is constantly evolving as enemies present new problems and tactics. Because of this, the training facilities are not set up to resemble any certain geographic location. Instead, the guard is aiming to prepare warfighters for any possible situation. At the end of the day, Lt. Col. Trygve B. Trosper, ARNG, chief of the training support branch at the National Guard Bureau, says the goal remains the same:
"The bottom line up front: We're trying to give soldiers more familiarity with IEDs."
Without these lanes, guard members typically receive training after reaching an active duty station where they are bombarded with information. Guard leaders hope the new ranges will increase the amount of practice warfighters receive before they ever hit the ground in a dangerous situation. And with 70 percent of casualties caused by IEDs, it's a mission that hits home for everyone involved, says Sgt. Brown:
"I have a personal interest in it. I'm watching my fellow soldiers being blown up. It's just very bad, and we're trying to do everything we can to not have anyone else go through that ever again."