ABOARD USS IWO JIMA -- In Iraq, the threat of roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices is a daily concern. Due to constant training and continued vigilance, Marines have been able to locate these bombs before they are detonated.
In the past, once they were found, a Marine Explosive Ordinance Disposal technician would have to personally disable the bomb to make the area safe for Marines. This is a risky tactic that puts the lives of that Marine and those around him in danger.
To minimize the risk to Marines, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines have deployed with a new technology meant to make neutralizing those deadly threats a much easier and safer job.
The Marines assigned to the EOD detachment, MEU Service Support Group 24, spent June 12 training with the Talon 3B robotics system. The system is composed of a robotic arm and claw attached to a tracked remote-control vehicle small enough to be carried in the back of a Humvee. The training was meant to familiarize the team with the Talon system, which the MEU received just moments before embarking aboard the USS Iwo Jima.
According to the Marines, the Talon assumes all the risk a Marine would usually take when trying to neutralize a roadside bomb or IED. The Marines use the remote control robot to approach and inspect and even destroy any bombs from a safe distance.
“I know it can take care of IEDs so I don’t have to go walk down on them,” said Staff Sgt. Denis A. Desmerais, an EOD technician assigned to MSSG-24, 24th MEU.
“Technology like this keeps people from having to go take out an IED. I’d rather send a piece of machinery than a person, added Desmerais, a 26-year-old Lincoln, R.I., native.
To make sure the technology not only works, but works well, the MEU purchased the best technology available, costing Marines fewer lives.
“This is the premiere stand-off, neutralization and reconnaissance platform,” said Gunnery Sgt. Brent J. Loechler, the 37-year-old EOD Detachment team leader.
“I have the option of neutralizing an IED in place with the disruption charge or I can take some explosives and blow the IED in place,” added Loechler, a native of Overland Park, Kan.
According to the EOD Marines, having this technology enhances their capabilities on the ground and ensures they can accomplish their mission to make things safer for the Marines in Iraq.
“Without it we are practically combat ineffective. You are almost guaranteed to lose someone approaching an IED,” said Loechler.
Improving their team’s effectiveness is the goal of the day’s training. Each EOD team member worked through a multitude of different scenarios to keep their skills sharp.
“A lot of what we are doing is trial and error. We continually try something new to see if it works,” said Staff Sgt. Shayne H. Danielson, an EOD technician and a Walsenburg, Colo., native.
“We are trying to give the junior guys more experience,” said the 25-year-old team leader. “Doing this here, they see what works for different situations.
With the training the Marines are receiving aboard ship, if they are ordered to conduct operations in Iraq, they will be ready to neutralize the insurgent’s greatest weapon against service members.
The 24th MEU last week began an expected six-month deployment to the European and Central Command theaters of operation. The MEU is composed of its command element; Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365 (Reinforced); and Marine Service Support Group 24.