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By Sgt. Amber Criswell
35th Engineer Brigade, Task Force Muleskinner
The 35th Engineer Brigade of Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and the 648th Military Engagement Team (MET), Georgia Army National Guard, had the exciting opportunity to engage in a knowledge exchange event with the Royal Army of Oman on counter improvised explosive device (CIED) tactics, techniques and procedures. The event took place at the Royal Army of Oman School of Engineering in Muscat, Oman, and involved their engineers, infantryman and ordnance teams.
The U.S. and Omani relationship dates back over two centuries and this exchange further developed the interoperability and partnership of the countries. The goal was to use U.S. Army subject matter experts (SMEs) to discuss CIED methods used in past experiences in the Middle East with the Royal Oman Army Soldiers and for the Omani Soldiers to share their knowledge of CIED to mitigate challenges in current and future CIED and engineer operations.
CIED operations are aimed at identifying, disposing, neutralizing impact and preventing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used by threat groups. IEDs are weapons created by military munitions and hardware, or from components found in an everyday environment. This makes them readily available and easily employed in any situation.
"The enemy, their only limitation is their imagination," points out Staff Sgt. Ryan Reinke of the 648th MET. "IEDs have changed the game of modern warfare and have attributed to almost three-quarters of the casualties in the Middle East conflicts."
IEDs are used by threat groups all over the globe and both militaries see the importance in being prepared and knowledgeable to counter these threats.
Subject matter experts from the 35th Engineer Brigade, currently part of Task Force Spartan, were chosen based on past experiences with IEDs and the processes involved with combating the IED threat. Maj. Brian Sayer has over 28 years of military experience, with his first tour being in 2004-05 as a leader of a Sapper platoon.
"We were some of the first engineers to perform route clearance and had a great deal of experience with IEDs during that deployment," he said.
On his second deployment to Iraq, he ran a school to teach clearance operations to engineers coming into Iraq. After his second deployment, he worked as a contractor for the military at the Counter Explosives Hazards Center, instructing courses on route clearance operations. On his third deployment, to Afghanistan, he was company commander of a Sapper company, performing route clearance operations again.
Master Sgt. Rodney Haesemeyer, also from the 35th Engineer Brigade, has over 31 years’ experience in the Marine Corps and Army. During his last deployment, to Afghanistan in 2009-10, his platoon was very successful in both route clearance and counter IED operations.
"We regularly changed our tactics, techniques and procedures so often that some days we didn’t know what we were going to do until the time arose, which made it difficult for our adversary to effectively plan IED emplacements, ambushes and attacks," said Haesemeyer. "We were recognized for finding more IEDs than anyone else in that area had before."
On day one of the event, discussions were held on the basic components of an IED and both the Americans and the Omanis were intrigued by the knowledge each had to offer one another. All levels of experience were present and the collaboration of information led to rich dialogue, despite a language barrier.
The second day was a show and tell in which the Royal Army of Oman Soldiers displayed and demonstrated the use of their equipment. The members of the MET team and the 35th Engineer SMEs, in turn, explained alternate methods and techniques the Omani Soldiers could also employ using the same equipment.
The practical exercise occurred on the third day. Haesemeyer created routes in the Oman Army training area, filled with a few simulated IEDs along the way. Haesemeyer used many of the same techniques adversaries use to build the IEDs and conceal them, using trash – that populations throw away every day – and hiding them under the surface of the ground or in other objects along the route.
The Royal Army of Oman Soldiers, under the guidance of the 35th Engineers and MET team started on foot patrol along the designed routes, using their equipment and tactics, techniques and procedures from their playbook combined with what had been shared the previous days from the U.S. Soldiers. The Royal Army of Oman Soldiers immediately found the first IED placed along their route and acted with caution and haste appropriately. They continued clearing the routes with ease and little intervention from those operating the lanes, solidifying the intention of the event had been met.
The final day, all participants were awarded a certificate of appreciation, and Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Logan of the 648th MET congratulated all the participants.
"We got some good information exchanged between the groups. We hope you take away something that will help you in the future," he said. "You guys did an awesome job!"
Haesemeyer spoke on what was gained during the collaborative event with the Omani Soldiers. He said the units achieved their training goals.
"The most rewarding part is getting back to the basics and working with the company Soldiers from other countries, understanding how their day to day operations align with ours and sharing many of the lessons learned both from previous deployments and Soldiers currently engaged in counter IED operations," said Haesemeyer. "I believe everyone that attended left with a better understanding of how there is always alternative ways to achieve the mission, and for us all to continue to be successful we must regularly adapt and stay at least one step ahead of our adversary."
Sayer also commented on the success of the experience. He said the most rewarding part was engaging directly with Soldiers and engineers from another country.
"They were extremely interested in hearing about our experiences and listened intently as we explained our tactics, techniques and procedures. The practical exercise of dismounted CIED lane was a fun event which was well received by the Omani soldiers and one in which they performed very well," said Sayer. "We absolutely achieved our goals. We shared our tactics, techniques and procedures which could be useful if Oman ever faces an IED threat and shared how each army performs dismounted operations."
"The partnership is always good and bridges the gap for future engagements. We left the engagement with some positive feedback," Logan added.
The 648th MET team, a Georgia National Guard unit, has recently completed their nine- month deployment in which they participated in several military exchange events with several countries in the Middle East. These exchange events covered many aspects of military operations, tactics and techniques.
Soldiers of the 35th Engineer Brigade have approximately three months left in their nine-month deployment in support of Operation Spartan Shield. The expertise and reputation of the 35th Engineer Soldiers lend to their willingness and ability to mentor others. The 35th’s leaders say their Soldiers are humbled by the opportunities given while working with the MET and the Royal Army of Oman. The unit continues to look forward to future engagements to collaborate with other militaries, strengthen partnerships and gain new knowledge.
U.S. ARMY RESERVE
DEPT. OF DEFENSE
U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY
BEST WARRIOR COMPETITION