Big danger in three letters - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Big danger in three letters

February 9, 2005

Ft. Stewart-- When the soldiers training here at Fort Stewart get to Iraq, they won't fight a war on a typical battlefield, but they will be targets.

You can sum up the danger they'll face in three letters: I-E-D. It stands for Improvised Explosive Device, and that's what's killing American troops.

 It's the reality of war in Iraq. Homemade roadside bombs that may explode anywhere, anytime. "We don't know when, how, or where we're gonna get hit by them, so we always have to be on the constant lookout for them," said National Guardsman PFC Thomas Brooks.

Soldiers like this young private know learning how to spot IEDs, and learning how to react when one explodes, could save their lives.  "It would probably be one of most important training aspects that we're getting here because that's the main thing that's killing most of our soldiers over there," Thomas says.

Sgt. James Marti Wants leads IED training at Fort Stewart to make sure these men take care of their battle buddies and themselves. "The difference between their reaction could determine the difference between their life and death. They must stay focused. Stay alert to stay alive."

These soldiers are on a practice patrol when a mock IED explodes. They check for injuries, then move out quickly, but carefully. Always looking for other explosives or insurgents. When they're at a safe distance, they radio in a detailed report of what happened and where.

The sergeant says they did a good job. "They identify the IED, then they react. That's the main thing."

So you want to get as quickly as you can to a safe distance? "At the same time not run into another booby trap or something of that effect."

"We get one soldier up off the ground at the time because we don't know what the element is in front of us or what the element is behind us."

The training gives the soldiers confidence and maybe a little peace of mind. "This is reality this is the biggest threat you guys are going to face."

"The fact that I know I have my friends' back and they have my back kind of eases that fear off," Thomas said. "Eases the fear, but doesn't make it go away.

Because the reality of war in Iraq means a healthy fear of this could keep them alive.

posted at 2:40PM by dave.miller@walb.com

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