By Mike Strasser, U.S. Military Academy Public AffairsJuly 16, 2012
WEST POINT, N.Y. (July 16, 2012) -- Before Cadet Summer Training ends nearly every active-duty Soldier and cadet at West Point will receive counter-improvised explosive device training. To hear it from Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Burnett, nearly is not enough.
"Every cadet and every trainer will get it. I'm going to work it so everybody who is permanent party will too," Burnett said.
The training that the Corps of Cadets' command sergeant major is so adamant about is called the Mobile Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Interactive Trainer, or MCIT for short.
The MCIT is a state-of-the-art, immersive training system that navigates trainees from familiarization and testing to performance-based simulations. It is housed in four modified conex containers -- each featuring a unique training module using video storytelling and multimedia technology to get perspectives from both friendly and enemy forces.
"You get to see the bomb-making facility and all the configurations of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and different things laying around that you would see in a bomb-making factory," Burnett said.
Burnett said lessons are reinforced in each section of the MCIT. In the final trailer, a squad can be split between operating a mockup mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle, or MRAP, and acting as the opposition force.
"So it's a force-on-force scenario where they can see and start thinking like the enemy," Burnett said. "Why would I put an IED here? Why would I have a command-wired IED versus a pressure-plate IED?"
There's a lot to absorb from one end of the MCIT to the other. The training is not being provided with the hopes that if cadets emerge with at least one lesson learned from it all, then it's a worthwhile venture. No, Burnett said, there is testing involved and success is mandatory.
"If they don't pass the quiz at the end of those first three trailers, they'll flip right back around and go through it again," Burnett said.
Sun Tzu wrote on the importance of knowing one's enemy, so predicting where the enemy will detonate their explosive devices through MCIT training allows Soldiers to engage a different mindset.
"If you have them thinking like an insurgent you can make it so they have a better understanding as they're going out there on patrols where they might find those IEDs," Burnett said. "Even with all the money we've spent trying to get after this, the number one finder of IEDs on the battlefield is the eye of a well-trained Soldier."
The MCIT didn't arrive at Camp Buckner in time to train those conducting or participating in Cadet Leadership Development Training earlier in June. After finishing CLDT, Class of 2013 Cadet Ella Ellis became the assistant operations officer for Cadet Field Training and was able to take the MCIT training. He partnered with Class of 2013 Cadet Matthew Ghidotti, the CFT S-1 officer, who said the MCIT training was unlike any he had experienced before at West Point.
The subject is addressed in certain military science classes, but hasn't been as prominent in summer training as it is now.
"We've never really gotten that much detail about IEDs before, and the way the MCIT was interactive really allowed us to learn a lot and understand the different facets of bombs that are out there," Ghidotti said. "I had no clue before this about the number of IEDs the enemy is using."
In addition to taking the MCIT training, Burnett is putting some hip-pocket knowledge into the hands of cadets. While serving at the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization he developed and updated a Counter-IED Smart Book.
The thick, pocket-sized reference guide contains comprehensive, illustrative information about IEDs -- covering topics from how and by whom they are made and how they are employed to counter-measure for detecting and defeating them. The smart kit also includes a foldout visual language translator and visual awareness guide.
When Burnett arrived at the academy last year, he said it was his responsibility to make sure cadets receive the most realistic training possible. He hopes to have made good on that promise this summer with the MCIT and a few other elements added to Cadet Summer Training, such as military working dogs (during Cadet Leader Development Training) and a revamped Engineers lane. Cadets are also exposed to the military biometrics devices called BAT and HIIDE, which uses retina scans, fingerprints and text data to collect individual profiles on high value targets.
"On one of our operations during CLDT we had to go into a village, secure the area and talk with local leaders," Ellis said. "We brought in a military working dog to smell for IEDs, but until I got the MCIT training I didn't have a great understanding of what to look for and how they work."
In the train-up for CFT, the cadet cadre engaged in a dismounted IED lane which tests their ability to identify roadside bombs. IED training isn't designed only for infantry or combat engineer Soldiers, and it has become necessary, Ellis said, for everyone, regardless of how they serve in the Army. IEDs don't discriminate by branch choice.
"I definitely think that by the time we graduate and become officers, any training we can get before that is good," Ellis said. "No matter what you branch, knowing about IEDs is very important before you deploy."
"It's really going to help us later in our careers if we understand how our enemies use IEDs and how it has constantly evolved into their greatest weapon," Ghidotti said.