IEDs and the returning veteran

Morgan County's latest tool against...  something.  A surplus MRAP provided at no cost.

Morgan County’s latest tool against… something. A surplus MRAP provided at no cost.

“Plus you have a lot of people who are coming out of the military that have the ability and the knowledge to build IEDs and to defeat law enforcement techniques.”

This quote, from Morgan County, Indiana Sheriff’s deputy, Sergeant Dan Downing, a SWAT officer, has thrust this heretofore unknown law enforcement officer into the spotlight of many patriot, veteran, and military organizations.  He may now be the most well known cop in the state of Indiana.  SGT Downing’s statements, intended to justify the need for the Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected, armored vehicle Morgan County recently received from the Department of Defense, has since gone viral among the veterans community.

I thought I would take a moment to tell all of my friends in law enforcement a few things.

1) Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are not taught how to make IEDs.  I can’t vouch for the Coast Guard.

Are we taught how to look for them?  Yes.  Are we taught their effects?  Yes.  Are we given a brief, and limited, overview on basic items that are frequently used in the construction of IEDs?  Yes.  The end.  Okay, so I’m not done, so that isn’t really the end, but I hope you get the idea.  Unless you work in EOD, or Combat Engineers, or Special Forces Engineers, the average soldier knows exactly zero about handling explosives, manufacturing explosives, building improvised explosives, or even what materials go boom and which do not.  That is the basic truth of the entire matter.

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2) People who DO learn how to do those things, typically learn them from a different source than the military.  In fact, I know more cops who have been through explosives training than I do soldiers.  The DHS runs courses for law enforcement in New Mexico on the subject.  It’s a very informative course to attend.  If you get the chance, Explosives Identification and Response to a Terrorist Incident is a great class that I WISH the government would put our soldier through.  But, they don’t.  Not the typical soldier anyway.  So, mister police man, you and your fellow officers know more about explosives and how they are employed as IEDs, on average, than the military.

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3) Tell me the last time a Special Forces Engineer Sergeant, EOD Technician, or Combat Engineer built an IED or road-side bomb and used it against law enforcement.  I would say I would await your reply, but I’m old enough as it is and I can’t afford to sit here that long.

Yes, everyone is going to scream, “Timothy McVeigh!  Timothy McVeigh!”  Well, guess what?  He didn’t learn how to build that bomb in the military either.  Nope, he wasn’t trained in that sort of thing.  He was just a standard issue, one each, OD green in color, grunt.  I’m sorry, but IED making 101 is not in the course curriculum for the Army’s TRADOC command.  I know, I checked.

I know, I know, thanks to books and really, really bad movies, everyone believes that every soldier is a killing machine; able to fashion explosives from kitchen utensils and make a bazooka from a bicycle like MacGyver.  It just isn’t true.  (Of course, I have civilian friends who joke about me being able to kill them with a dinner fork.  That’s true, but I prefer a spoon.)  Hell, it’s hard enough getting them to show up for formation on time, let alone do something that complex and dangerous.  You would be better off declaring a law enforcement war on procrastination and shamming.  Those seem to be common problems among our military members.  But, you don’t need an MRAP for that, just a good drill sergeant voice and lots of free time.

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So, the next time one of your cop buddies talks about the dangers of returning veterans, how about you stop them and set them straight?  How about we remind them that THEY are the ones who actually possess much of the knowledge necessary for such things?  How about we concentrate on the real threats to this nation and our citizens and stop trying to place those who have given the most in a category defined by fear and ignorance?

How about we call bullshit when we see it?  Like, right now.  And I’m calling bullshit on Sergeant Downing and his fear mongering as he tries to justify his need for a heavily armored vehicle that even the Army doesn’t need anymore.

Oh, one more thing.  Those who are up in arms over the MRAPs should bear in mind that they are NOT good vehicles for rapid response forces. If you missed my article on the subject for Soldier of Fortune magazine, give it a look.  I’m sure in a few years, law enforcement will be giving these vehicles away too.  Just like our military is doing now.

Ross