CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — An exhausting blanket of heat encompassed members of Combat Logistics Battalion 8, 2nd Marine Logistics Group as they cautiously worked their way down an ominous gravel road riddled with simulated improvised explosive devices.
The exercise challenged the Marines and sailors to sweep the IED infested training sites of Camp Lejeune’s Home Station Training Lanes in Holly Ridge, N.C., July 19 during a week-long training operation designed to prepare them for threats they may encounter on future deployments.
“The considerable amount of IEDs in Afghanistan are found using visual indicators, not necessarily the metal detectors,” noted 2nd Lt. Eric Slockbower, the Engineer Platoon commander with the battalion, as he described the need for the field training. “(Marines) would drive down a road, and maybe they would see a pile of rocks on the side of the road. Maybe the pile of rocks catches their eye, maybe it doesn’t, but they wouldn’t think twice about it.”
Slockbower stressed the need to look twice, which the Marines and sailors learned firsthand as they worked their way through the IED scenarios with sweat seeping through their uniforms and burning their eyes. They became more aware of the different threats each feature on the road may represent for the unit’s members.
The servicemembers learned to establish an understanding of their surroundings, engage the dynamic nature of their environment and recognize the signs of a threat before it is encountered, explained Slockbower.
The convoy successfully passed through a mock village, carefully clearing possible threats within the buildings as the lead vehicle pressed forward. The first explosion struck just beyond the edge of the village, launching the Marines into action.
“An IED went off in one of the first scenarios, and the Marines got out to do their sweeps,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Alex Box, a corpsman with CLB-8. “As soon as the scene was secure, I went out with a security group and got everyone out.”
The team practiced cutting through the fog of deception, anticipating each new threat as they searched for signs of explosives. They ran through their reporting procedures and secured the area with each threat they located, and they took control of the scene and dissected their performance with the instructors after each detonation.
“It’s definitely a life saver,” said Box, who is training for his first deployment. “Even when we drive out there before the IEDs go off or anything happens, I’m going through my head everything I was taught in training.”
The Marines and sailors passed through further simulated ambushes and practiced the recovery and treatment of casualties while under the threat of enemy fire as they wrapped up their week of field work.
The servicemembers cleared the road for the course’s next pupils and sought refuge beneath the shade of nearby trees after their first venture through the IED course. Box boarded his transport and headed once more into the mouth of the hot gravel road for a second shot at the course, knowing one day it could save a life.