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Grunts receive new tools to defeat IEDs

23 Feb 2006 | Cpl. Mark Sixbey

Technology continues to make its way to the front lines, giving Marines new tools to counter improvised explosive devices, the biggest threat to Marine patrols in the area.

Marines with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, recently received the MARCbot IV, a remote-operated robot equipped with a video camera and control console with a 5-inch LCD screen that gives a continuous video feed from the extendable arm.

“It’s a good tool to have, considering the amount of IEDs in the area,” said Cpl. Chris Kozuch, an armorer with Headquarters and Support Platoon.

Nicknamed “Bigfoot” by Marine operators for its monster-truck appearance, the MARCbot IV operates much like any remote control car, said Cpl. Chris W. Sachs, a motor transport operator for Headquarters and Support Platoon. 

“It drives exactly the same, it just has a camera added on,” said Sachs, a 22-year-old from Jefferson City, Mo.

“It’s a basic joystick layout, very easy to operate,” added Kozuch, 22, from Castle Rock, Colo.

Bigfoot’s relative long-distance range effectively puts a safety buffer between the Marine and any suspected roadside bomb, Kozuch said. 

“Primarily, when we spot a potential IED, we send it out to investigate whether it’s an IED or trash,” Kozuch said.

Explosive ordnance disposal units have been equipped with similar units for some time, but equipping infantry companies with their own robots can save time while waiting for EOD to arrive on the scene, Sachs explained.

“We can assess the situation, and EOD doesn’t have to come out if we don’t need them,” he explained. “We see an IED … if it’s real, they can take care of it.”

The batteries aboard the mobile unit are good for a relatively short time in continuous use, but long enough to get up on the suspected bomb, Sachs said. It comes with LED, or light emitting diode, for night use, with two long protruding antennae, one for the video feed, one for controls. The camera swivels back and forth on command, allowing the operator to view from virtually any angle.

“You can look at pretty much anything you want, Kozuch said.  “It can also handle rough terrain.”

Kozuch had first seen a MARCbot IV back in 2005, but never thought he’d ever get a chance to drive one. He said he always had an interest in technology and when the company got the new robot, he was quick to volunteer. 

The two-part system, which fits inside a single black plastic case, carries a price tag of roughly $50,000. Kozuch will say it’s well worth the cost should the robot be blown up doing its job.

“Anything is better than losing a Marine, no matter how much it costs,” Kozuch said.  “You can get a new robot, but you can’t put a price on a Marine’s life.”