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Delegates to a Counter-IED Conference at Hohenfels toured a U.S. IED academy on Wednesday, observed soldiers manning a checkpoint and checked out engineer route-clearance vehicles.
Delegates to a Counter-IED Conference at Hohenfels toured a U.S. IED academy on Wednesday, observed soldiers manning a checkpoint and checked out engineer route-clearance vehicles. (Seth Robson / S&S)

HOHENFELS, Germany — U.S. troops and personnel from 16 other nations swapped expertise this week on countering improvised explosive devices, the biggest killer of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Gary Carlberg, deputy chief of operations and training at the U.S. military’s Joint IED Defeat Organization, said the conference in Hohenfels is a response to Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ call in February for more counter-IED equipment and training for International Security Assistance Force partners in Afghanistan.

“I think [boosting training for ISAF partners] is a game changer for Afghanistan,” Carlberg said Tuesday.

Afghanistan had 8,159 IED incidents in 2009, up from 2,677 incidents in 2007, according to a Joint Multinational Training Command press statement,

Coalition engineers and explosive ordnance disposal experts mingled with U.S. counter-IED trainers at the conference.

Carlberg said that U.S. forces are experts at the counter-IED fight by virtue of their experience in Iraq.

And, since the U.S. has newer equipment such as Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles, insurgents are targeting coalition forces more often.

“This is a conference to talk to the nations and say: ‘What are the things we can provide?’” Carlberg said.

“Some of the counter-IED experts and key trainers from those nations can say: ‘These would be some great tools or processes that we could use to improve counter-IED training.”

Most of the nations attending the Multinational Counter-IED Conference this week provide Observer, Mentor and Liaison Teams that train Afghan forces, Carlberg said.

One of the soldiers participating at the conference, French Army Maj. Lionel Pechera, 34, said his military’s counter-IED efforts mirror the U.S. approach.

“We are focused on two points – defeating the device and attacking the network,” he said, adding that the point of the conference was to get nations doing counter-IED work in Afghanistan in a “common pot.”

Another delegate, Estonian Defense League (National Guard) Senior Sgt. Toomas Tamosjunas, 29, said his nation does counter-IED training on a smaller scale than the U.S.

Lt. Col. David Ray, 40, of Olathe, Colo., a combat engineer and counter-IED trainer at the Hohenfels IED academy, said about 4,500 foreign troops have done counter-IED training at the academy in the last few years.

“We want to make sure all personnel who operate in support of ISAF arrive ready to operate at the same level. We expect them (partner nations) to generate their own counter-IED capabilities as a result of working with us,” he said.

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