Hawaii Counter IED Experts Conquer Khaan Quest|
By Russell Shimooka, Asia Pacific Counter IED Fusion Center
Khaan Quest is a U.S. Army Pacific sponsored exercise conducted annually with the Mongolian Armed Forces designed to promote multinational cooperation and regional security. This is the tenth year Mongolia has hosted armed forces from around the Asia Pacific region. In addition to the host Mongolians and the United States, forces from India and South Korea participated in the field training.
Mongolia isn't considered a hotbed of IED activity, but the destination its Soldiers are headed to is. Two Mongolian infantry platoons that participated in the exercise are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom sometime this year.
"They were taking this seriously," said Staff Sergeant Casey Brantner, a trainer with the Asia Pacific Counter IED Fusion Center from Fort Shafter, Hawaii.
"We remind U.S. Forces that it's not a matter of if you deploy, but when. We drove home that same message to the Mongolians and they responded well by indicating that they want more of what we have to offer," said Brantner.
Brantner said the counter IED training his team provided helped build skill sets needed for deploying forces to Afghanistan or peacekeeping missions with the United Nations. Brantner's team helped prepare an Indian platoon for a peace support mission to Congo. They also provided instruction for South Korean Special Forces headed for Afghanistan, Lebanon, and South Sudan.
Armed with the latest tactics, techniques, and procedures integrated with up to date intelligence, a mobile training team from Hawaii deployed to Mongolia to provide counter IED instruction that included two days of academic classes in IED awareness and homemade explosives.
Over the next several days, participants were given practical exercises on operating in an IED environment on mounted and dismounted patrols, IED observation/identification, and checkpoint security.
Christopher Grant, the mobile team leader, said all of the training lanes had real world scenarios deploying forces would encounter.
"We wanted to enhance the capacity to prepare, train, manage, and conduct operations in an IED environment," said Grant.
Wanting to have a multinational flavor to the field training, "we had our team augmented by trainers from all the participating countries," said Grant. "We were able to share tactics and procedures; and that just builds lasting relationships."
Grant said the Mongolian Armed Forces Peace Support Center at Five Hills afforded instructors an ideal landscape to conduct counter IED training. The high altitude, wide open fields surrounded by mountains resemble the type of terrain found in Afghanistan.
Mongolian Training Sergeant Gantumur Enkhbat, who has a deployment to Afghanistan, said the subjects were real and relevant for their upcoming mission.
"When we conduct our own counter IED training, we don't have all the tools that make it realistic. We use rocks or some other material to replicate devices. During this exercise our Soldiers got to see what an IED looks like, how it's place, and most important how to react to one that is found," said Enkhbat.
In addition to partner nations receiving training, forces from the Alaska Army National Guard and Marines from Hawaii, Okinawa, and Twenty Nine Palms, California, sharpened their counter IED skills during Khaan Quest.
"It's a lot more challenging that what we've had before," said Marine Sergeant Ian Merritt, a squad leader with the 4th Marine Regiment from Okinawa. "It was nice to have CIED professionals who came out to teach this and know how to actually place the devices the way it's found in theater. That's invaluable, and it only enhanced the training I've had in the past."
Said Sergeant First Class Shawn Patnode from the Alaska Army National Guard; "My biggest take away has to be the devices and the techniques. All the instructors we dealt with had a lot of real world experience, knowledge and current intelligence. They were able to bring it all together in a cohesive manner."
Lead instructor Grant said all the participating forces were receptive to the training and asked they come back to provide more advance instruction.
"That's a very good feeling as instructors; students are appreciative of your efforts and that fact that they believe this is important enough to ask you back. Plain and simple we provide the type of information and skills that increases a Soldier's survivability on the battlefield. I don't think there's anything in our profession more noble than that," said Grant.