FORT IRWIN, Calif. -- At the National Training Center, asymmetric training often takes center stage. The NTC is focused on simulating battles between maneuver elements composed of tanks and other fighting vehicles; however, it is the utilization of irregular and guerilla tactics that allow the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment to double down on their training capabilities.
Throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, the prevalence of roadside bombs on the battlefield proved to be a difficult challenge to surmount for a conventionally-based Army. These unconventional tactics brought about the development of Counter Insurgency Operations and units such as the 11th ACR's Terrorist Explosive Network. The TEN is able to build simulated roadside bombs which are used by the 11th ACR's Opposing Force to prepare rotational training units for deployment. The TEN combines the most up-to-date information with lessons learned from more than 10 years of continual conflict. These simulated roadside bombs enhance the training environment and exposes training units to the most accurate and potentially deadly situations they are likely to encounter.
"The TEN-shop fabricates [Improvised Explosive Devices] to provide the realistic replication for the 11th ACR every rotation," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Ingalls, the Platoon Sergeant of Military Intelligence Company's TEN. "We work to enable the rotational units to meet their training objectives by making them counter the IED threat on the battlefield."
At the NTC, the unconventional or irregular fight is one that occurs at the same time as the force-on-force battles. The 11th ACR uses pre-existing infrastructure, to include towns, roads, checkpoints, hostile paramilitary and partisan forces to harass training units using a combination of guerilla attacks, simulated roadside bombs and psychological warfare. The OPFOR replicates tactics currently used by terrorist organizations by applying lessons learned from deployed U.S. forces.
Several teams on Fort Irwin collaborate to create this hybrid environment. These teams include the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, the TEN, Operations Group and emplacement teams throughout the 11th ACR. Information on how to employ the training roadside bombs is gathered from JIEDDO and several databases with information on the most current IED technology, techniques and procedures. Soldiers from the 11th ACR's MICO replicate roadside bombs by using four of the five main components of an IED: the switch or trigger, initiator, power source, and container. Due to replication safety precautions, the fifth component of the IED, the main charge, is replaced with a light linked to a noise amplification device which signals a successful detonation.
"We teach rotational training units how to react to an IED in a safe and controlled environment," said 2nd Lt. Derek McCarty, the Platoon Leader for MICO's TEN. "We have a close working relationship with JIEDDO that helps us to determine what sort of IED threats the training unit may experience down range."
Utilizing the same sort of off-the-shelf materials as insurgent groups, the TEN quickly produces a variety of simulated roadside bombs. TEN Soldiers tailor these training aids to the NTC operating environment to ensure Rotational Training Unit Soldiers are aware of the effects. Simulated roadside bombs are emplaced around the training area and often destroy "soft" targets, such as logistical convoys on main supply routes. It is the job of trained OPFOR Soldiers to strategically emplace these training aids; it then becomes the job of Ops Group to serve as adjudicators, determining what damage a detonation causes.
The Soldiers from the TEN not only build roadside bombs for the NTC training environment, but they also teach the Blackhorse Insurgent Academy. A five-day course taught by MICO Soldiers provides Blackhorse Soldiers with pyrotechnic safety information and emplacement techniques. The focus on proper employment techniques enhances OPFOR's complex attack capabilities during the wide area security fight, which requires the training units to put themselves at additional risk in protecting populations, forces and infrastructure.
The U.S. military continues to gather information and adapt training to match the evolving design and use of roadside bombs. With this knowledge, the TEN replicates and uses tactics similar to what today's enemy has to offer. It is imperative that the 11th ACR and other NTC organizations present training units with the most realistic combat scenarios possible. Replicating the most accurate unconventional warfare threats prepares Soldiers for the current combat environment.