Who’s Best At Spotting Roadside Bombs?

Finally there is a study that actually serves a purpose, rather than one of those studies that discovers that sleeping less leads to increased fatigue.

The military looked at which personnel were more likely to see a deadly roadside bomb and which personnel were simply poor at it. What they found kind of surprised me. But then, when you look at it, it makes sense at the same time:

Military researchers have found that two groups of personnel are particularly good at spotting anomalies: those with hunting backgrounds, who traipsed through the woods as youths looking to bag a deer or turkey; and those who grew up in tough urban neighborhoods, where it is often important to know what gang controls which block.

The findings do not surprise Army Sgt. Maj. Todd Burnett, the top enlisted man with the Pentagon-based Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO, which conducted the study. He’s made multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and ridden in more than 1,000 convoys and, on 19 occasions, been in a vehicle hit by a roadside bomb.

Ok, stop right there. This dude is major league All American. Do you know anyone else who has been hit by 19 IEDs? Is that some kind of record? Give it up for the Sergeant Major. And for the people who make the vehicles he rides around in.

The best troops he’s ever seen when it comes to spotting bombs were soldiers from the South Carolina National Guard, nearly all with rural backgrounds that included hunting.

“They just seemed to pick up things much better,” Burnett said. “They know how to look at the entire environment.”

Troops from urban backgrounds also seemed to have developed an innate “threat-assessment” ability. Both groups, said Army research psychologist Steve Burnett, “seem very adaptable to the kinds of environments” seen in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For those folks who spend all their free time donning the headset, logging into XBOX Live and playing HALO, believe it or not, you will not see the roadside bomb that takes out your truck. You spend too much time narrowing your vision to the confines of a television screen:

Video game enthusiasts are narrower in their focus, as if the windshield of their Humvee is a computer screen. “The gamers are very focused on the screen rather than the whole surrounding,” said Sgt. Maj. Burnett (no relation to the research psychologist).

It’s interesting that rather than give an increased awareness, video games instead create a habitual limited field of vision.

What’s more interesting is how our military is taking what they have learned in Afghanistan and Iraq and implementing it in their training:

There is one last group of people who are very good at finding roadside bombs:

To the two desirable background categories found by the research, Gouak, who grew up in rural Pennsylvania, thinks one more group should be added as particularly dedicated to spotting bombs.

“Anybody who has lost a buddy to an IED,” he said. “They never stop watching.”

And for those men and women, I’ll never stop praying. God bless the American military.

Crossposted at All American Blogger.

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