5TH CANADIAN DIVISION SUPPORT BASE GAGETOWN, New Brunswick, Canada – A U.S. Army bomb disposal specialist from the 192nd Renegades Rifle Battalion honed his explosive threat suppression and disposal skills during Exercise Ardent Defender in Canada, Oct. 20-Nov. . .4, 2023.
Sergeant Braxton Isaiah Marbury, a member of the 722d Ordnance Company based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, trained with explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technicians from eight other allied countries: Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden , and the United Kingdom during exercise Ardent Defender.
For the Marburys, going into the military is a family tradition that spans generations, so there was no opposition to his enlistment. However, the news of him becoming an EOD technician caused some resistance.
“My dad was in the Marines. In the end, he was also in the army. Mom, dad, big brother, great-grandfather, grandfather, they were all in the army. So they had no problem with me going to the army. But they didn’t support me to go EOD.”
Marbury believed he was equipped to be an EOD technician because of his lack of fear.
“I realized that there are only a few people who would volunteer to do something like that, and I’d rather be one of the people because it doesn’t worry me.”
During eight months of EOD training, Marbury learned a variety of skills. These skills included the basics of destruction, ordnance identification, reconnaissance, biochemical and nuclear weapons.
Marbury’s initial training was different from the specialized training he underwent during Exercise Ardent Defender.
“It was different from initial EOD technician training. These are all advanced level actions. EOD school does not train you to be ready for force; it just lets you learn. It just gives you a strong foundation of what the job is. How you actually do the job: Each unit does it differently. In each theater you have to change tactics and technique to adapt to it. So it’s an ever-evolving business.”
Marbury is mentally tough. He is not worried when he comes across a potential weapon because he is trained and skilled in his field.
“Because you know you have the skills to beat him. There’s nothing to worry about. I got it. I won. When I understand how you work, I will win.”
Marbury maintains a good workout regimen in the gym so he can meet the physical demands of his mission-critical job.
“It is a very physically demanding job. That’s a lot of heavy equipment, and you’re moving it all while wearing a bomb suit. You are the team leader. You’re wearing a suit, and you’re also carrying all the tools and everything else you have to take down there. So, you better lift weights. You have to be physically fit or you become a danger.”
The safety of those potentially affected by unexploded ordnance is of the utmost importance.
“Unless there’s immediate danger, I get people out of there, and when it’s not life-threatening, we can slow it down and take our time to figure out what’s going on. It’s a big Easter egg hunt. Once you find it and find out what it is, you’ve won.”
Humans and robots are the perfect team to combat unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). During the exercise, participating countries used robots and other technologies to assist in detection and disposal.
“You’ll still need an operator. When we do practices like this, we see the other side of the house,” Marbury said. “The Canadians, their robot, can do most of the work. It doesn’t take away from the operator’s skills, but we just haven’t transformed into it. Sometimes you have to make that approach; you have to land where the robot can’t. I don’t see a robot taking over. Whether it’s in a basement or a heavily wooded area.”
Marbury learned some lessons during the exercise while working with partner nations that he can put in his pocket for future use.
“We talked a lot with the Danes. Their labeling techniques are phenomenal. The way they mark the cleared trails, it’s definitely something we’ll be bringing home with us. They are much more thorough and technical. They put in ropes and stuff, and you can’t miss that.”
This exercise also presented several obstacles for Marbury to overcome.
“Time was an adjustment, as was the number of operations we perform. We work consecutively every day. So, the intensity of the work-rest cycle is an adjustment to the language barrier, of course.”
The American team worked with soldiers from eight different countries who spoke different languages and accents. The weather varied from crisp fall to freezing snow during the two-week training. Despite these obstacles, Marbury has a positive outlook on exercise.
“This is my favorite exercise I’ve done so far. I like this. I like the environment. I like how they run it. All the problems we face are extremely technical in some aspect. It will make you think somehow. So I’m enjoying it.”
Many different scenarios that paid tribute to Marbury’s skills involved electrically timed IEDs.
“I set off three different electrically timed IEDs. All with victim-driven backups, meaning he’s waiting to kill someone or tick off a timer. It also has a backup, so if you try to mess with it or move it, it will also fire.”
With the stakes so high, Marbury has a simple plan to disarm the threat.
“You want to identify it. Confirm that it’s a threat and you do it from a distance. Take a look at it to get an idea of what it looks like on the outside. You can’t tell much from the outside. Now, you’ve got to get the inside. So now I’m taking X-rays on him, I’m figuring out what the internal components look like. I’m identifying the four basic components you need to have an IED. Once I get them, I know I have a threat, and now I’m going to attack and defeat it. I’m just figuring out what’s inside for safekeeping.”
The ability to operate alongside allies in pursuit of tactical, operational and strategic objectives is critical to EOD success.
“Exercises like this are important for interoperability and we have a chance to work with any of these nations if we deploy in an environment close to them. Sharing tactics and learning to integrate is important so that our first work together is not during an actual conflict.”
For Marbury, the international aspect makes this exercise different from others he has participated in.
“International partners certainly make this different. They run this in a developed environment. We report to headquarters. The intelligence cell is funny. This is the first time we have an actual intelligence and forensics lab connected to exercises and real devices made by red cells. And then it’s so good to have a constantly evolving conflict with enemies where their tactics and procedures change with ours. This is very good training and a lot of thought has gone into it.”
The Ardent Defender exercise provided realistic scenarios, including a wide variety of ordnance and IEDs such as vehicle-borne IEDs, radio-controlled IEDs, person-borne IEDs and patrol-targeting IEDs and convoys.
“We haven’t seen anything that hasn’t been used in real life yet, so they’re extremely accurate.”
Marbury understands the importance of physical and mental fitness for his highly technical and dangerous job and is excited to continue destroying ordnance as long as his mind and body allow him to do so. To keep up with the demands of his job, Marbury enjoys hiking and other outdoor activities.
“I love hiking; I really enjoy it. Going to rodeos, hockey games and things like that. I like to be outside and just work. I like hiking because it helps me stay in shape. And I actually enjoy it. I like to see the scenery and go talk to someone and enjoy nature for a while.”
With only two years left on his current contract, he plans to stay in the military as long as the good days outweigh the bad. Some of those good days include training days like Ardent Defender. Marbury believes the exercise was an excellent training event not only because of the interoperability among our NATO partners, but because of the great men and women he worked with and now calls friends.
|Date of publication:||14.11.2023 11:48|
|Rental:||OROMOCTO, NB, CA|
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