Identification of the Emplacement of Improvised Explosive Devices by Experienced Mission Payload Operators

Nathan J. McNeese, Nancy Cooke, Russell Branaghan, Ashley Knobloch, Amanda Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) have become one of the deadliest threats to military personnel, resulting in over 50% of American combat casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. Identification of IED emplacement is conducted by mission payload operators (MPOs). Yet, experienced MPOs are limited in number, making MPO training a critical intervention. In this article, we implement a Cognitive Engineering Based on Expert Skill methodology to better understand how experienced MPOs identify the emplacement of IEDs for the purposes of improving training. First, expert knowledge was elicited through interviews and questionnaires to identify the types of perceptual cues used and how these cues are cognitively processed. Results indicate that there are many different static and dynamic cues that interact with each other over time and space. Using data from the interviews and questionnaires, an empirically grounded framework is presented that explains the cognitive process of IED emplacement detection. Using the overall findings and the framework, IED emplacement training scenarios were developed and built into a simulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-51
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Ergonomics
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • Expertise
  • Improvised explosive devices
  • Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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