Fort Wainwright, Alaska--Unseasonably frigid temperatures didn't deter a group of junior non-commission officers from the 3-21 Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division from completing counter IED training here April 8-12.

"It was miserable," said Sgt Randy Poggensee, who was referring to the weather and not the training.

Poggensee, a squad leader from Bravo Company and his fellow "Arctic Wolves," lived up to the brigade nickname by braving the negative digit temperatures, and successfully negotiating the first ever counter IED train the trainer course held in Alaska. These junior leaders are now certified to teach counter IED awareness and strategic movement to soldiers back in their own units.

"What this did is give me the tools to train my Soldiers, everything from what is an IED to where our adversaries place them," said Poggensee.

A mobile training team from the Asia-Pacific Counter- IED Fusion Center based at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, and at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, Alaska, supplied the 40 hour period of instruction. The train the trainer course, more commonly known as "T-3," is intended to produce a highly competent group of trainers with the knowledge, skills, and ability to effectively train others within an organization to predict, prevent, avoid, neutralize, and protect the force during full spectrum IED defeat operations.

"As junior NCOs they are that first line of training," said Christopher Grant, lead instructor for the visiting training team. Grant said the material covered during the week will help these leaders help their Soldiers during an upcoming deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

"This is just something else in their toolkit, but I believe it could be the most important. The skills they learn here and subsequently pass along to their men will help increase a Soldier's survivability on the battlefield," said Grant.

Students were given classroom instruction on IED components, fabrication, emplacement, and recognition. They also learned enemy tactics, techniques, and procedures; very important pieces in solving the counter IED puzzle. Knowing how and where the enemy places these deadly devices give Soldiers indicators out on the battlefield as to where they are located said Grant.

After the indoor instruction, students took to the chilly outdoors where they participated in mounted patrols and tried to spot indicators learned in the classroom.

Looking for indicators and finding the IEDs in mild conditions is one thing, but in five feet of snow seems impossible. Or is it?

"If you can find it in the snow where everything looks the same, then you should be able to find it elsewhere," said Staff Sgt. Daren Holt, a squad leader from Headquarters Company."

To cap off the intensive course, students became the trainers; preparing, rehearsing, and then instructing the classes, a precursor to what they will be doing when they return to their respective units.

"This is really the best part of the course where we turn it over to the students and they teach the class; they place the devices; they run the lanes; and at the end critique each other," said Grant.
"This gave me a much bigger picture," said Sgt. Martin Gamboa, a team leader from Charlie Company. "I've been downrange, but I've never received this kind of training that explains why the enemy is doing this, and why they're doing that. This puts it all together."

Holt, who wears both the Ranger tab and Artic tab, says the training was challenging and served as an "eye opener" to many things even to someone with previous deployment experience like himself.
"The detail of how IEDs are made, it's nothing like I have ever seen before. It's like they {trainers} have the bad guy's playbook. It certainly gets you into the mindset of the enemy and that's what we have to do to defeat these things," said Holt.

Grant said their training material is a fusion of Army doctrine and the latest intelligence culled from the battlefield. The course is updated constantly and tailored to accommodate units deploying to Afghanistan or any region in the Asia Pacific area of responsibility.

As for the weather, the Daily News-Miner, the paper that serves the Fairbanks area to include Fort Wainwright, reported the minus 20 degree temperature during the second week of April was the lowest on record in the past 21 years.