The U.S. military hopes a new training center here will better equip soldiers to prevent further deaths in Iraq caused by improvised explosive devices. The Department of Defense announced earlier this week that the headquarters of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Task Force will be located at Fort Irwin. The center will train soldiers in the use of robotics and unmanned aerial vehicles as well as how to detect explosive powder on people's hands.
"We've got to help these guys before they deploy," said Lt. Col. Thomas Magness. "The threat evolves every day. This is an enemy that has demonstrated that they're going to change."
Improvised explosive devices, known as IED's, are homemade bombs often hidden in cars and on roads. More than 30 percent of American military deaths in Iraq have been from improvised explosive devices, suicide bombs or other such blasts since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, military officials said.
Previously, soldiers did not receive IED training until they arrived in Iraq. Military officials said the center was established in response to soldiers' requests for additional training. "It's their No. 1 concern," said Brig. Gen. Robert Cone, commanding general at Fort Irwin. "I prepare them for Iraq, and therefore, it's my No. 1 concern."
Soldiers will learn how to use unmanned aerial and route clearance vehicles that will be able to identify possible IEDs. Military officials said about 50 soldiers have been trained in robotics over the past two months. A similar training facility is located at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, reports the AP. I.L.