Guardsmen conduct route recon and IED training

Friday, November 12, 2010
Soldiers of the 1137th Military Police Company survey a possible new forward operation base as part of a route reconnaissance mission during their recent drill.

WAPPAPELLO, Mo. -- Soldiers of Missouri National Guard's 1137th Military Police Company in Kennett, Doniphan and Jackson recently conducted route reconnaissance and improvised explosive devices, or IED training at the Wappapello Training Site.

As a part of the training, the unit divided into squad level groups of eight to twelve Soldiers and was given the mission to survey and assess a possible supply route to a new forward operation base.

The route could go through or by hostile areas, so it's important the Soldiers are vigilant.

"It should be pretty easy and quiet but we'll prepare for the worse," Sgt. Charles Masegian told his team leaders.

To prepare for the worst, the Soldiers studied a map of the area and identified alternative routes for evacuation, rally points if the squad is separated, and areas for helicopter evacuations in case of a medical emergency. Humvees and weapons are also checked for possible maintenance issues.

Before heading out, every squad leader reminds their Soldiers that they are all responsible for scrutinizing the route and reporting what they see up the chain of command.

"If you see something odd, note it, and radio it up," Staff Sgt. Arthur Carrell told his squad. "When we get back we'll put all our thoughts together and put them on a new map."

Soldiers are looking for indicators - how easy or difficult it is for the vehicles to travel the route, if there are any people along the way and even possible IEDs.

"Be aware of the behavior of the people," Sgt. Bryant Lavalais reminded his squad. "Even the presence of children or not can be an indicator of something bad happening."

The Soldiers load into their vehicles and after a quick radio check they roll out.

Within the first hundred meters they pass an old dilapidated barn with three individuals loitering outside. They are armed.

The gunners are the first to spot them.

"Be advised! Possible hostiles to the left! Possible hostiles by a barn!" they shout to their battle buddies inside the vehicles.

Team leaders exchange information on the radios.

As each squad approaches the possible operating base, Soldiers can see two armed individuals with their weapons pointing at the vehicles as they pass.

The Soldiers are ready to defend themselves, but recognize that the individuals have only shown intent to shoot and until they actually fire the Soldiers only radio in that there are two possible "enemy combatants."

After returning to their starting point, the Soldiers combine their information into one big picture.

"Today's training was pretty good," said Spc. James Miller, who was a team leader in his squad. "There were a lot of circumstances you had to look for that could happen. We had to stay on our guard."

Although the Soldiers didn't engage in any direct action, the training helps build their skills said Staff Sgt. Gary Burchell.

"This type of training in similar to the security skills and missions they're going to do in theater," said Burchell, who was an instructor for the training. "Under stress you automatically go back to your training. That's what we're building here."

For Pfc. Zach Kennedy the training helps to refresh his driving skills.

"As a driver I have to multi-task through it all," said Kennedy. "I have to listen to everybody in the vehicle. I also have to memorize the terrain I'm driving on, what type of road is it, what is the environment like around me. And I'm essentially in charge of everybody's life in that vehicle I'm driving"

The training also reminds the Soldiers how important communication is.

"You have to let everybody know what you see and what's going on around you," said Spc. James Miller. "It's for your safety and everybody else's safety."

While the route reconnaissance training gave the Soldiers practice on planning and completing a mission, they also spent time reviewing techniques to look for and recognize signs of IEDs.

IEDs are always changing and Soldiers receive the latest updates and briefings if and when they deploy overseas, but reviewing the basic visual markers helps build the Soldiers' observational skills.

"They showed us how easy it was to overlook something if you don't pay attention," said Miller.

Soldiers identified markers while on foot and while driving in Humvees. Visual markers can be wires, stacked stones or sticks, new cement, disturbed earth or even animal remains.

Spotting markers can be difficult if their hidden well, but each Soldier has an area they are responsible for watching.

As a gunner, Pfc. Jessica Yates has a good view of what's down the road.

"Because I'm higher up I can see a little farther ahead and I can warn my team and tell them to stop," said Yates. "It's good because I may save our lives."

When they discover an IED the Soldiers must perform the proper tasks for safeguarding their unit and the route, this includes setting a security perimeter and properly alerting their chain-of-command to the IED's description and location.

"Its good training to do again and again," said Spc. Joshua Smith, who was a Humvee driver during the training. "In a split second I got to figure out do I stop and back up or do I speed up and pass it then stop. Either way could be safer or dangerous."

If something dangerous does happen, Soldiers are required to know how to react to and perform immediate lifesaving measures.

The unit medics set up a special station with Soldiers who were "shot" or "hit by IED shrapnel" and their battle buddies had to respond accordingly, from evaluating the casualty, dressing open chest, abdominal and head wounds, as well as performing first aid for bleeding and severed extremities.

This training is critical if the unit is deployed overseas and including training Soldiers to perform medical procedures while under pressure. But injuries can occur in any number of situations beyond the battlefield, such as during training weekends or when the unit is activated for state emergency duty. It's important they know how to immediately react in any situation to save lives.

For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please call 1-800-GoGuard or visit

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