News: Wyoming village at forefront of training Soldiers to deal with IEDs
Story by 2nd Lt. Christian Venhuizen
CAMP GUERNSEY, Wyo. – Deep within the training grounds of the Wyoming National Guard’s Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center sits a village filled with marketplaces, single family dwellings, three story structures and a prison.
It’s also filled with trap doors, false walls, weapons caches, improvised explosive devices and an underground tunnel system allowing the small band of opposing forces, that operate in the area, to more than challenge any company sized unit trying to clear the community of “insurgents.”
The $1.5 million counter improvised explosive device training facility is intended to help train troops from any branch of service on the detection of IEDs while operating in a variety of environments and scenarios, according to Capt. Eric Will, Camp Guernsey’s range officer and brain child of the village’s design.
“(National Guard Bureau) let the training sites build their IED lanes based on their customer base,” he said. “We didn’t want to build solely an IED lane. We wanted it to have different functions.”
The entire counter IED project at the camp spans 7 kilometers, and incorporates an additional village along the camp’s convoy live fire lane, an IED identification center, a walking lane, driving lanes and the main village.
Will said the facility is expandable to 15 kilometers and will incorporate IED simulators, role players and pop-up targets that fire back. Additional solar lighting and an intricate system of surveillance cameras will allow commanders to observe the training and break down the missions, day or night, during after action reviews.
There are 24 counter IED projects like Camp Guernsey’s going up around the nation, said Eric Fiedler, with the U.S. Army’s Counter IED Integration Cell. He said most of the previous IED training deploying troops received came within 30 days before the Soldiers mobilized. The new sites allow training to occur earlier and more often.
Fiedler said the ultimate goal is to save lives by training Soldiers to better handle IED threats, including indoor booby traps and those along roadways and walking paths.
“This is something that’s here to stay. It’s not just part of the Global War on Terror,” said Fiedler. He said 73 percent of casualties, from enemy operations, are attributed to IEDs. “It’s pretty much a persistent threat.”
Will said the camp already has four military units requesting reservations for the site, which won’t be fully operational until Spring 2011.
Even when the facility is green lighted, users still won’t see asphalt paved streets and facades decorating the buildings, which are actually modified shipping containers. Not adding the asphalt to streets, or facade to simulate buildings in either Afghanistan, or Iraq saved $100,000, said Will. That savings was then spent on more containers to increase the complexity of the village.
“(National Guard Bureau) didn’t necessarily want it to be theatre specific,” the captain said. “That’s why we chose to not spend a lot of money on facade to make it look pretty.”
Much of the war fighting that Camp Guernsey will train Soldiers for does not specifically relate to conflicts in Afghanistan or Iraq. Will said, the village was designed to allow troops, or civilian law enforcement, to prepare for battles anywhere that involved buildings and complex urban environments – all of which are expected to have IEDs.
“They’ve created essentially something nearly as sophisticated at what you would find at the National Training Center, at Fort Irwin, Calif.,” he said. “I would hold (Camp Guernsey) up as one of the more innovative and creative projects.”
With more than 140 shipping containers, the counter IED village includes three-story apartment complexes, walking bridges and single story dwellings, all complete with furniture.
Additional cost savings were found when nearby F.E. Warren Air Force Base was getting rid of old furniture in their enlisted dormitories.
More money was saved through the competitive bidding process. 2nd Lt. Charles Mesko, assisting Will with the project, found a shipping container company in Cheyenne, Wyo., that provided the lowest competitive bid for containers.
The company, Alco Mobile Storage Trailers and Containers, voluntarily kept costs down when more containers were requested. As the orders were being placed, shipping container costs, nationally, rose $500 per container, Mesko said.
A similar operation at Fort Carson, Colo., provided another $150,000 in equipment and training aides to Camp Guernsey, and the use of Wyoming Army National Guard Soldiers to complete the construction of the facility, not only employed Guardsmen during tough economic times, but provided some savings to the camp.
“We couldn’t construct it again at this price,” Will said, of the $1.5 million price tag. “A lot of things fell into place to make this happen.”