Ruben Zunega
Ruben Zunega, exhibits maker at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., examines the model improvised explosive device he built for the 304th Military Intelligence Battalion.

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz., Oct. 11, 2007 - Ruben Zunega has spent the last 32 years making everything from full-scale plastic tanks to 3-D topographical maps. But his latest project might just be his most important.

An exhibits builder for the Range Control Office here, Mr. Zunega is now constructing model improvised explosive devices and improvised rocket launchers that will be used to train soldiers heading into combat zones.

Working conceptually with Capt. Travis James of the 304th Military Intelligence Battalion, Zunega is giving Soldiers a stronger defense against IEDs by providing a tangible product they can see and touch.

"This will save lives," said Capt. James, who provided Zunega sketches from memory because he couldn't offer the real thing. "Not only will it save lives, but it will also help get soldiers home intact."

After seeing his friends get hurt in Ramadi, Iraq, the captain started taking pictures of the devices in sector. He and his team then hung the pictures on a wall, along with actual devices for soldiers to pick up and handle.

"We saw casualty rates drop. It was a fantastic success," said Capt. James.

Mr. Zunega spent two weeks creating the model IEDs and IRLs. The devices will be distributed to sites where junior soldiers are training prior to deployment, and incorporated into the insurgency class for the military intelligence captain's career course.

Capt. Scott Smith, Company A, 304th Military Intelligence Battalion, is preparing to deploy to Iraq with a military transition team.

"I saw the model IEDs and think they're a great way to prepare all soldiers for what we may see in Iraq," he said.

Mr. Zunega is now working on model electronic form projectiles that James said are one of the biggest killers in Baghdad.

"If these models save one life, it will all be worth it," Mr. Zunega said.

Page last updated Fri October 12th, 2007 at 08:53