FORT JACKSON, S.C. (TRADOC News Service, May 18, 2007) -- A soda can covered in black tape with a wire sticking out sits on a dining facility table. A gray artillery shell sits on top of a projector in a battalion classroom. A land mine is hidden underneath a stairwell.

Soldiers are being introduced to Improvised Explosive Devices from the very beginning of Basic Combat Training in an effort to enhance their situational awareness of this deadly killer.

"IEDs are the No. 1 killer of our Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and we are trying to teach these Soldiers to be aware of their surroundings from day one, so we can counter this threat and save American lives," said Lt. Col. Ken Royalty, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment commander.

IED awareness typically begins with bringing Soldiers into a classroom for a detailed IED class and familiarization training. The next time the Soldiers enter the classroom or even their dining facility, an IED is placed somewhere obvious in the room, for Soldiers to find and report.

As the weeks go on, drill sergeants hide IEDs in less obvious places to challenge their Soldiers observation skills.

"When Soldiers come here to basic training they are more concerned with following what their drill sergeant is telling them to do, but we are raising the bar and emphasizing situational awareness," said Capt. William Toles, commander of Company C, 1st Bn., 34th Inf. Reg. "We are teaching them that if they see something out of the ordinary, to let us know."

"Not only do we teach them to look out for IEDs, but they also have to look out for clues that an IED may be around, such as a stalled car or somebody sitting on a hill," Toles said. "Other indicators could be graffiti that wasn't there the day before or no children playing in an area where they usually are."

In their first week of training, Soldiers are taught the "5 Cs" of encountering a roadside bomb. If a suspicious item is found, Soldiers are taught to: confirm, clear, call, cordon and control. They are also trained to report the suspected IED to their tactical operations center so explosive ordnance disposal personnel can "render safe" the threat.

By the fourth or fifth week of BCT, IEDs are placed in the field near their training exercises.

"Anytime they go to a training event, they immediately begin searching the area for any IEDs," Toles said. "If they fail to locate one, there are consequences. We may take five Soldiers from the group and say they are now dead and the rest of the squad must complete their task with five less people."

IED awareness training is also implemented during the field training exercises. In addition to IED simulators, grenade simulators, artillery simulators and other devices are used to make the training more realistic.

"When we execute Victory Forge (the BCT-culminating seven-day field training exercise), our goal is to employ simulated IEDs in the same manner our Soldiers will see in Iraq or Afghanistan," Royalty said. "We are talking about extremely creative positioning with multiple IED threats."

IEDs are easily made by enemy combatants using materials found in local stores and unused explosives left over from the former Iraqi regime and other sources. They can be disguised to look like any object and are often hidden roadside among debris.

Common roadside IEDs include artillery and mortar rounds covered with dirt, rocks or trash. Other IEDs may be as innocent looking as a soda, oil or paint cans. IEDs can be detonated by one of two ways: remote control or direct. And blasting caps, which can be set off by any kind of battery, are readily available.

"You can walk over an IED and lose a leg, or lose your life," said Pvt. Joshua Jarvis, 1st Battalion, 34th Inf. Reg. "They are giving us the basics about IEDs, but I feel I am being given the training I will need to stay alive and out of harm's way."

Page last updated Mon May 21st, 2007 at 10:32