FORT POLK, La. -- One of the most valuable training regimens a unit goes through before deploying to Afghanistan is a rotation at Fort Polk's Joint Readiness Training Center. During a three-week visit to west central Louisiana, visiting units are given a glimpse of life in the Middle East and introduced to the latest weapons and tools available to Soldiers. One particularly helpful block of training involves how to combat one of the deadliest weapons Soldiers face -- improvised explosive devices.

Due to time restraints, many units only receive a quick overview of the latest equipment in the Army's inventory to defeat IEDs. To ensure Soldiers are properly trained in the use and deployment of equipment designed to protect Soldiers from IEDs, Forces Command has created Counter IED Integration Cells, or CI2Cs. The cells, operated by civilian contractors -- all of whom have extensive military experience -- are located at most installations supporting FORSCOM brigade combat teams.

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Ted Sutton is the CI2C integrator and team leader for the Fort Polk cell assigned with providing training to 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division and the 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.

Sutton, who recently stepped down as the Fort Polk garrison command sergeant major, said his team falls under the Fort Polk G-3 office. "We are separate from any rotational units or combat advisor training," Sutton said. "We are counter-IED home trainers; basically, the single point of contact for Fort Polk units."

Sutton said CI2C's mission is to provide home station training, empowering noncommissioned officers through training and leader development to be primary instructors for individual and small unit collective training and to enhance unit training capabilities during situational and field exercises. He said having home station trainers allows rotational troops to be better prepared to take full advantage of the training scenarios available at JRTC, Sutton said.

"If Soldiers are trained and ready to operate the latest equipment when they arrive at the Joint Readiness Training Center, they can go to a higher level of training by actually deploying and using it in scenarios they are likely to face down range," Sutton said.

With increased dwell time due to the drawdown of deployed Soldiers, Sutton said the Army is attempting to get home station training back on track. "Our role is to stay up-to-date on the latest equipment and training," Sutton said. "Basically, we can be the units' subject matter experts. Hopefully, units will look at CI2C first instead of waiting until they get to JRTC to ask questions."

Two benefits to having CI2C cells at home stations are flexibility and costs, Sutton said.
"The cells are much more user friendly," he said. "We can schedule training when the unit wants it and there aren't the costs associated with bringing in a mobile training team."

According to Sutton, the primary focus of the cell is to train trainers -- those leaders in a unit tasked with teaching their Soldiers to operate equipment.

The four pillars of the CI2C are: Robotics, Company Intelligence Support Teams, Biometrics and Search.

Tracy Jackson leads the search pillar. He said the goal is to train nine-man teams from each battalion on search operations, consisting of occupied and unoccupied building, area, personnel and vehicle searches.

"We teach tactical questioning and a small portion of battlefield forensics," he said. "We also teach them to use handheld devices available in the Army inventory to help with searches, as well as visual detection."

Jackson said today's equipment is user friendly. "With good training, it's doable with the caliber of Soldiers we have today," Sutton said. "That's why it's important to have home station training -- more Soldiers are trained."

The biometrics subject matter expert is James Langston. He said Soldiers are taught biometrics from the ground up, receiving formal classroom instruction, as well as field support on the tactical employment and operation of the Biometric Automated Toolset/ Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment -- or BAT/HIIDE.

"It's biometrics 101 -- as easy as it gets," he said. "We teach measurement of life -- areas such as iris and facial recognition." Langston said the training enables leaders to use the BAT and HIIDE within the scope of their mission and teaches system users how to capture quality biometrics.

"The more people that can be enrolled into the database, the better," Langston said. "We teach Soldiers to engage the local populace in their area of operation and enroll them. That allows you to better attack the network -- the more Soldiers are trained, the more information they can gather."

Langston gave an example of attacking the network using gathered information. "Let's say you pull a latent fingerprint off of an IED and it matches someone you've scanned into the system earlier," he said. "You can then go back and question them, ask them why their fingerprint was on an IED. You're attacking the network and removing him from the battlefield."

While there is no dedicated robotics instructor at this time, the equipment covered includes the following:
• FASTAC -- a robot used for surveillance, reconnaissance, IED identification and route clearing. Its capabilities include night and low light maneuvers, gap bridging and stair climbing.
• MARCbot IV-N -- a multi-functional agile remote control robot.
• Talon IV -- a mine detecting, counter-IED robot.
• SUGV 310 -- a small unmanned ground vehicle that gathers information in dangerous conditions for warfighters.

"Training includes pre- and post-combat checks, troubleshooting and operator level maintenance, capabilities, how to use the equipment and how to recover it when the mission is complete," Sutton said.

Chris Maxwell is the COIST subject matter expert. He said the goal is to attack IED networks before they are able to finance, supply, build and emplace IEDs.

"Defeating the device was the primary theme for a while," Maxwell said. "Now, we want to prevent them from being emplaced in the first place; we want to be proactive instead of reactive."

Maxwell said company teams consisting of four to six Soldiers are taught to analyze and exploit information obtained from the battlefield through patrol briefings and debriefings, single source entities, and cross collaboration with other COISTs..

"We take all of the information from biometrics, robotics and site exploitation as well as debriefings from patrols, key leader engagements, information from other COISTs and S-2s, then start making links," he said. "We give Soldiers the tools and teach them methodology so they can develop a large picture to provide support for the targeting process. It's all behind the scenes actions to conduct predictive analysis and support commanders and S-2s."

Maxwell said COIST teams are force multipliers for commanders. He said team members are selected based on their capabilities, not their military occupational specialty. "They need to be able to think analytically," Maxwell said. "We provide commanders a checklist to help them choose team members and their battalion S-2 can also provide guidance."

Maxwell said training can be tailored to unit type and mission requirements. "This is a bottom-up process," he said. "In asymmetric warfare, the enemy is nodal and dispersed. You've got to get the information from troops on the ground. The information is both vertical and horizontal."

Steve Chadwick, chief of training for Fort Polk's G-3, said the CI2C cell is a valuable addition to both home state and rotational units. "We have units assigned to Fort Polk -- 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 115th Combat Hospital, 162nd Infantry Brigade, and others -- that train on a regular basis," Chadwick said. "FORSCOM has provided us this resource to augment that training."

Chadwick said that if needed, the CI2C could support the Joint Readiness Training Center and Operations Group, as well as the 162nd Infantry Brigade, as they train rotational units.

"It's all one big team effort on Fort Polk to provide as much training as possible to our Soldiers and leaders since IEDs are the biggest problem on the battlefield today," Chadwick said.

Sutton said the makeup of CI2Cs are still evolving. "We're allocated based on 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, but we will support any Fort Polk home station unit," he said. "What experts we don't have, we can bring in."

For more information about CI2Cs visit www.forscom.army.mil/ci2c or call 531-4732/1495.

Page last updated Mon February 27th, 2012 at 00:00