TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Marines and sailors of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit recently finished over a month of training exercises at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms’ Mojave Viper training area where they received extensive insight and training on Improvised Explosive Devices.
What made this exercise unique compared to the many other exercises performed by the 15th MEU during their work ups cycle is that this was the first opportunity for Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) Marines and Sailors to work directly with the rest of the unit during missions.
Recently, IEDs have been the largest threat to service members serving in Iraq, causing any training and first hand insight on IEDs to be vital for troops getting ready for deployment.
“Mojave Viper is the biggest training venue right now for EOD technicians,” said Maj. Michael R. Glass, EOD Officer In Charge at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms.
“IEDs are the number one killer in Iraq right now which makes the training all the Marines receive out here critical,” he said.
Mojave Viper has three gravel alleyways, known as “training lanes,” lined with numerous simulated IEDs that Marines must identify as they make their way down the alley.
“The training lanes teach the Marines to constantly be on the look out for anything suspicious that could be a possible IED and gets them into a mindset to be constantly aware of their surroundings,” said Gunnery Sgt. Michael J. Burghardt, the EOD Staff Noncommissioned Officer In Charge .
Throughout the five weeks of training, more than 1,200 Marines and Sailors attended IED classes and made their way down the training lanes under the supervision and constructive criticism of numerous EOD technicians.
“Anybody that completes this training package is going to be better when they get to Iraq,” said Glass.
“This is the only place where EOD is incorporated directly with the infantry,” said Burghardt. “This allows us to start building that relationship with them before we head into theater.”
Mojave Viper not only allowed Marine EOD technicians to get some “hands on” with live explosives while working with the grunts, but allowed the Navy EOD counterparts that will be deploying with the 15th MEU, to integrate directly with the Marines for numerous exercises.
The Navy EOD technicians are often integrated directly with Marines when a MEU gets the order to move into a country such as Iraq, but are not often there for pre-deployment training exercises.
Throughout the Mojave Viper training, Marines patrolled and monitored a mock Iraqi village that was occupied by actors and roll players to make training as realistic as possible. While patrolling the streets the Marines were forced to remain vigilant, looking for IEDs, small explosives placed throughout the town by instructors, and then take the proper action disposing of the explosives.