Fort Benning Soldiers have a new place to learn about improvised explosive devices - a training village on Sand Hill. Construction on the nearly $500,000 site began in August, and Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 54th Infantry Regiment, were the first to use it Thursday.

IEDs are the No. 1 killer of U.S. Soldiers in both theaters of operation, said Louis Francis, IED defeat analyst and trainer.

"This is the first (IED training site) on Fort Benning to this scale," said project manager Dave Nolan, with the Directorate of Public Works' Engineering Division. The facility replaced junk cars and small wooden structures that served as the previous training site.
"There was a lot of imagination used," he said.

Complete with a gold-capped mosque, an open market, draping telephone wires and an Arabic sign, Nolan said the site was designed with input from Soldiers to be as close to real as possible. There are even speakers for broadcasting Muslim prayers.

CPT Terry Jones said the enemy changes its tactics often so IEDs are not predictable, but with the training Soldiers should be more prepared to identify possible targets and how to react when they do.

"If they see one thing that looks familiar to them in Iraq or Afghanistan that they saw here ... that could save their life," Jones said.