From left, Sgt. Christopher Knight, 24, Oscar Gonzalez, 26, and Sgt. 1st Class Jose Carmona, 46, emplace a mock IED Friday during training in Germany.

From left, Sgt. Christopher Knight, 24, Oscar Gonzalez, 26, and Sgt. 1st Class Jose Carmona, 46, emplace a mock IED Friday during training in Germany. (Seth Robson / S&S)

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — A man digs suspiciously by the roadside while his companion fiddles with a clump of wires attached to what looks like an old artillery shell.

It’s the sort of scenario that happens every day in Iraq or Afghanistan, and insurgents attack U.S. forces with roadside bombs.

This week the suspicious bomb emplacers have been at work at Grafenwöhr Training Area in an exercise designed to train soldiers to pass on knowledge about the bombs to others.

Thirty-five soldiers from all over U.S. Army Europe were learning how to conduct “counter-IED” training with the help of a team from the Joint Asymmetric Threat and Counter IED program from Fort Irwin, Calif.

Instructor Lance Delonge said the team teaches soldiers at major training centers all over the U.S., but this is the first time it has traveled overseas.

The three-day course starts with a 1½ days of classroom instruction in which the students learn how to identify key terrain features that would be used by an insurgent placing a bomb.

“Things like a field of view for a triggerman … a prior engagement site … an ingress and egress route to the site … a man-made or natural terrain feature separating the site from a triggerman’s point of observation … a telephone pole that could be used as a timing mark … guard rails at the site,” Delonge said.

When soldiers find a suspicious site, they should interrogate it with a robot or use optics to look for wires, disturbed dirt or anything abnormal without getting too close, he said.

The last 1½ days of the course took students into the training area to learn how to conduct training, he said.

On Friday students split into teams and headed out to two walking routes and two driving routes to dig holes for mock roadside bombs, lay pressure plates full of mock C4 explosive, and string wires to mock artillery shells and infrared simulated explosively formed penetrators.

Then the teams took turns navigating the lanes, which each featured about three bombs, Delonge said.

One of the soldiers learning how to emplace the fake bombs, Staff Sgt. Oscar Gonzalez, 26, of Weslaco, Texas, has experienced the real thing in Iraq.

The 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade soldier was in a Humvee that was hit by a bomb in Baghdad.

“It was a pressure plate. I was in the back seat and nobody was hurt, but the whole front of the vehicle was gone,” he recalled.

Gonzalez said he’s never run bomb training but had participated in it before he deployed. He expected the training will be especially useful for soldiers who have not deployed yet.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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