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Four PAE counter-improvised explosive device (C-IED)/ explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) subject matter experts (SMEs) recently conducted a pilot Improvised Explosive Device Defeat (IEDD) training course in support of the U.S. Army Africa (USARAF). The audience for this training consisted of 16 students assigned to the 61st Engineer Group, Centre d'Excellence EOD Tunisien (CEET) in Tunisia. This training, delivered under the Freedom of Maneuver contract, is part of the Building Partner Capacity (BPC) program, which covers a broad set of missions, programs, activities and authorities intended to improve the ability of other nations to achieve security-oriented goals they share with the United States. Since 2001, the U.S. government has increasingly prioritized efforts to build foreign security forces-particularly in weak and failing states-to advance U.S. national security objectives. Among other efforts under BPC, the U.S. Army and PAE mentor, advise and train indigenous forces.
A Military-Contractor Solution
PAE EOD SMEs/Master Instructors Mike Hague, Bruce Clark, Eric Lake and Justin Jewitt worked with military personnel from USARAF and military trainers from the 744th Ordnance Company (EOD), Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on the pilot training course. The course was designed to (1) increase C-IED capability and Tunisian Army's engineer school; (2) improve operational capacity to counter IED threats in Northwest Africa; and (3) enhance the U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) partnership with Tunisia. The PAE team supported USARAF and the onsite military team with curriculum development, course execution and final after actions data collection and reporting.
"This event was much different from our normal C-IED and EOD scripted training events," said PAE EOD SME/Master Instructor Mike Hague. "Our goals during these missions are to present facts about the global and regional terrorist threats; facilitate open discussions about U.S. and partner nation tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs); and provide practical exercises where students can hone their skills." This military- contractor team combined their years of operational and educational experience to build a successfully planned, designed and executed training program that now serves as the benchmark for AFRICOM IEDD and C-IED training.
PAE and USARAF EOD SMEs developed a flexible curriculum from the ground up that could be readily scaled, adjusted and updated based on the training needed and IED threats of the requesting African nation. USARAF followed this team approach to achieve its near- term BPC training goals and establish a basis for future training programs conducted by Department of Defense instructors.
Developing an IEDD Operator's Course
USARAF's goal was to develop a modular BPC training program that can be replicated, with minor changes/updates based on country threats and capabilities, by any African nation. Based on this requirement, the curriculum development team leads Sergeant First Class (SFC) Place [USARAF], Mike and Bruce [PAE] built the course by assessing mission requirements and analyzing student needs. They developed a learner- centered and measurable curriculum using the "analyze, design, develop, implement and evaluate," or ADDIE approach to instructional systems development.
Teaching Bomb Basics
The advanced technical nature of course content and practical exercises requires a team of operationally experienced EOD SMEs who are formally trained instructors and observer/ controllers. The five members of the U.S. Army military training team and all PAE team members are current or former Joint Service EOD technicians. PAE offers the customer a deep bench as PAE team members have nearly 65 years of combined operational and deployment experience. One of the team members, Eric Lake, is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in African Studies through the University of Florida. "His knowledge of the politics, culture and threats provide credibility," said Mike. "His holistic knowledge of Africa and experience there was invaluable to our team and the Tunisian students."
USARAF required two instructors for 15 students during the four-week classroom phase to address challenges posed in teaching technical subject matter to non-native or foreign language speakers. During the two-week field training exercise (FTXs) events, the required instructor to student ratio was one to five because of the added risk of injury to instructors and/or students during field training operations.
"Many of the students lacked experience employing advanced EOD TTPs and specialized demolition charges, which required our instructor staff to remain vigilant when enforcing safety protocols," Mike explained.
Training Aids, Support Equipment and Expendable Supplies
Delivering bomb training in a foreign country to allied partners poses logistical and operational challenges not found when training U.S forces at home. The most obvious is the language barrier. Varying operational environments; student experience, training and education levels; and culture differences must also be accommodated when developing training. Logistics, customs rules and regulations, and resourcing can complicate delivery.
To support the training, PAE, Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Agency (JIDA) and USARAF
built a robust IED training aid kit to enhance classroom lessons and FTXs. The kit provides students with current and relevant terrorist threat targets designed to challenge skills they learn during classroom and practical training.
PAE manufactured IED training aids in its Fredericksburg, Virginia warehouse facility for use in the Tunisia training. USARAF provided site exploitation, EOD hand tools and backpacks. The team purchased expendable supplies (homemade explosives [HME], inert simulants, mixing containers, tape, spray paint and other hazardous items), that could not be shipped from the local economy.
Pre-Deployment Site Survey (PDSS)
Prior to the pilot training course, SFC Place (USARAF), JIDA Program Manager Frank Vigus and PAE Director of Army Programs Jason Souza conducted a PDSS and analyzed Tunisian IEDD missions and threats, established minimum experience levels for the students, reviewed training facilities and field training areas, and determined support requirements.
Pilot Course Execution
To ensure a smooth start to the training, several PAE team members arrived in country a month ahead of the training start date to coordinate facilities/training areas, rental vehicles, lodging, and meet with 61st Engineer and CEET leadership.
The training kicked off with two instructors delivering classroom theories and practical hands-on exercises, then multiple instructors/ facilitators assisted during practical and FTX evolutions. CEET staff provided one interpreter, who was also a student, during classroom sessions. Three-fourths of the students could understand English, but only one-fifth could clearly communicate in English.
Mission Accomplished: Lessons Learned
Although technically proficient interpreters would have greatly improved information flow and comprehension, the mission was successful. The training team left nine terrorist encampments that they had built to support training and scenarios in place to provide realistic training areas for recurring and pre-deployment training. Prior to the training team's arrival, most of the Tunisian Army IEDD Operators' training was on the job, fighting their national war on terrorism, so they appreciated this basic instruction. Students said this is the best training they have ever received-and they want more. "Being able to practice the hands-on skills we learned in the classroom in a realistic FTX environment was exactly what we needed," said one student.