A U.S. Army team is standardizing counter-improvised explosive device training among coalition partners to improve mission effectiveness and increase collaboration in theater. This training initiative, known as the Badger Team, offers allies the chance to consolidate tactics, techniques and procedures and bring the information back home to their countries.
In her SIGNAL Magazine article, "Badgers Claw Away at Deadly Dangers," News Editor Rita Boland discusses how the training initiative has overcome cultural barriers to bridge the knowledge gap and save lives.
The Badger Team falls under the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command, which is part of the U.S. European Command. Courses are held at the Hohenfels Training Area in Germany and are open to any military group with funding and NATO approval. Since October 2010, more than 12,000 students have passed through the program from across Europe, including Poland, Spain, Belgium, France, Bulgaria, Albania, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Norway, the Czech Republic, Georgia and Austria.
The counter-improvised explosive device (C-IED) courses run anywhere from five to 20 days and focus on two goals: to consolidate emerging trends in the fight against IEDs and to offer nations a chance to send trainers who can then return home with the knowledge and begin their own C-IED training programs. The lessons cover a wide range of topics from defeating the device to attacking insurgent networks.
Bringing together allies for cohesive training helps to close the gap in resources between the U.S. and its partners, says Lt. Col. Michael Oliver, USA, Badger Team senior C-IED trainer. Nations rarely train alone, and the colonel explains that anywhere from two to five groups can participate simultaneously. Col. Oliver says he believes the initiative will give multinational partners the training they need to take a more active role in Afghanistan and reduce the number of U.S. service members on the front lines:
"The purpose of the team is to train and build capacity for our partners so they're more capable of participating. And because they're participating, it means fewer U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. To us, that's a big deal."
The Badger Team ensures that everyone in Afghanistan has the same level of training on IEDs, explains Col. Oliver, which reduces the time it takes to bring units from separate nations together in theater. Regardless of their background or uniform, the colonel says everyone faces the same risks:
"In the end, an IED doesn't care if it's an American or one of our partner nations out there. It's going to kill them just as dead."
While language barriers have created some communication problems during training, Col. Oliver says patience and experienced trainers help bridge the gaps. In many cases, the unique backgrounds of participants are an asset when it comes to sharing knowledge and tactics. Allies have different experiences based on where they fought previously, and they all bring something unique to the table.
While the primary focus of the Badger Team is on Afghanistan, trainers are preparing soldiers for additional battles in the future. Team members often travel to other countries to help with local training and to speak with warfighters and experts on the ever-changing trends. The fight is far from over, says Col. Oliver, and the IED will likely be the insurgents' weapon of choice for the long road ahead.