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Learning on the Job: Defusing IEDs in Iraq

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Learning on the Job: Defusing IEDs in Iraq


Learning on the Job: Defusing IEDs in Iraq

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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We are all too used to hearing stories about improvised explosive devices in Iraq, what the U.S. military calls IEDs. The makeshift bombs are deadly packages that can be found stashed on the sides of roads, buried in piles of trash or hidden just about anywhere. IEDs are among the biggest causes of U.S. casualties in Iraq. In cases when an IED is spotted, a U.S. explosives ordinance team is dispatched to go and diffuse it.

NPR's Jamie Tarabay recently embedded with U.S. troops in the northern city of Kirkuk, where she watched an Iraqi explosives team in action.

JAMIE TARABAY: Sergeant Ryan Lord hadn't driven his Humvee more than 50 yards out the last gate of Forward Operating Base Warrior when Iraqi police, standing in the middle of the road, waved his convoy to a halt. One Iraqi policeman tells soldier Mike Taylor there's an IED just ahead.

Mr. MIKE TAYLOR (U.S. Army): You talking about that right there? Should we go to the left?

Unidentified Man #1: (Speaking foreign language)

TARABAY: Taylor asks the policeman in rudimentary, but workable, Arabic which way should he go. The convoy sits and waits. Then Sergeant Lord notices something else, another suspected IED.

Sergeant RYAN LORD (U.S. Army): Maybe (unintelligible) on the right side. Right there.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah.

Sergeant LORD: I see it right there.

TARABAY: The first Humvee leaves the rest of the convoy over the median strip to the left side of the road. They sit and wait some more on the wrong side of the road. Iraqis driving cars in their direction quickly turn their vehicles around at the site of the stalled convoy.

Sergeant LORD: We're stuck in between.

TARABAY: The convoy has two potential IEDs to deal with now, one about 10 yards away, another 20 yards back. They're told the Iraqis are sending an explosives ordinance team, known as an EOD, to check out both IEDs.

Sergeant LORD: Let them know that Iraqi EODs are preparing to detonate them.

TARABAY: The U.S. military has spent lots of time and loads of money training Iraqi Security Forces. But things don't always go as planned. The Iraqi police start shooting at the potential bomb, hoping to set it off, but to no avail. The convoy continues to sit and wait. An hour passes. As Sergeant Lord watches, the Iraqi police move closer to the suspected bomb.

Sergeant LORD: Oh, he's not going to get up and look. I bet they're running wire to it. What up with that? They gave up on destruction. (Unintelligible)

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TARABAY: IEDs aren't normally a laughing matter. In Kirkuk, the bombs are the biggest danger to both U.S. and Iraqi troops, as well as local businessmen and politicians. However, in this incident, the first IED turns out to be a fake. To the surprise of the American soldiers, this emboldens the Iraqi police now focusing on the second suspected bomb.

Sergeant LORD: Oh, he kicked it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sergeant LORD: The second one must have been safe, because they went over to it, kicked it over and then threw it across the road.

TARABAY: An hour and a half after first stopping, the convoy moves on.

Jamie Tarabay, NPR News, Baghdad.

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