Identifying the IED Threat by Steve in Iraq

The Improvised Explosive Device, or IED, is the predominant killer of US troops in Iraq today. Since the initial invasion in 2003, they have become increasingly sophisticated and deadly. If a terrorist organization ever decided to use them to any great extent in the US, the effects would be devastating. We are going to look at the fixed IED as opposed to a Vehicle Borne IED (VBIED,) simply for space and to better cover each subject individually.
First off, there is one rule that will enhance your survivability tremendously: Never set a pattern! If you are able to, have at least three different routes to and from your destination, and vary them. Not only your routes, but your times as well. The harder you are for the enemy to track, the better your chances of survival. When I went to Iraq in 2003, the roadside bombs, as they were simply called, were mainly old artillery shells packed with plastic explosives and placed on the side of the road with a simple trigger such as a cell phone of pager, or land mines that would be buried in the road. Once the convoy of vehicles was spotted, all that was required was for one of the bad guys to make the call, using his cell phone, to the triggering device. Or, the convoy would simply drive over the land mine, not suspecting one had been emplaced in the asphalt. They could also be emplaced by railroad tracks, on the side of the road attached to a guardrail, or at an intersection, either in the road or inside a stoplight pole. As time went on and these roadside bombs were found and defeated, the enemy came up with new and more ingenious methods for using them. One technique was to use dead animals, and place the IED inside of them. Since there was an abundance of dead dogs on the side of the roads, no one would ever suspect! Another technique was to “daisy chain,” or wire several bombs together at one time to cover a greater area. Also, they were found in concrete blocks, behind road signs, and hidden in current roadside construction debris. Many of these techniques are still being used today, in 2007, with tragic results. A new threat has emerged this year, the Explosively Formed Penetrator. This device, which acts very much like a sabot round, is a copper formed, shaped projectile designed to penetrate the heaviest of armor plating, and has been highly effective against US and Coalition Force vehicles. A standard car would stand no chance.
So, how to identify a potential IED? Just the thought of one is terrifying to most people, as it well should be! Vigilance is the key word here. All IEDs require the initiating system to be near the main charge. Common initiating systems, or triggers, include cell phones, walkie talkies, keychain car alarm fobs, garage door openers, or pagers. Anything that will receive a radio or electronic signal. Key indicators are freshly dug areas, dead animals on the side of the road, or people milling around where they shouldn’t be, i.e., a group of people under or on top of a highway overpass. If you see any type of signal, such as lights or flares or warning flags, these are also indicators, along with obstacles in the road that will force you into a “choke point,” where your escape options become nil. Any of these should set off your “spidey sense,” which you need to listen to!
Wires or other obvious indicators in the open will alert you to the presence of an IED, but it can also alert you to the fact that it may be a “hoax” IED, designed to channel you into an area that you may consider safe, but in reality has been already wired by an enemy with the true IED. Hoax IEDs, or secondary IEDs have been used in Israel and Iraq against first responders who have come in response to either a fake bomb, or have come to aid the victims of one IED, only to become victims themselves.
If you suspect an IED, get out of the area as quickly as possible. When you are satisfied you are out of the kill zone, call and alert the authorities. Do not use your phone while you are still in the area! You can set off the triggering device! Let the authorities know what you have seen so they don’t walk into the situation blind, then let them handle it.
Will the US ever see the widespread use of IEDs like Israel has, or Iraq? I hope and pray not, but maybe you now have some idea of how to identify the threat, and strategies to survive another day.