NEWS | April 6, 2021

Explosives detection training lane at MTC dedicated to fallen VNG Soldiers

By Mike Vrabel JFHQ Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Current and former Virginia National Guard Soldiers and guests attended a dedication ceremony for the new Banks-Lambert Handheld Detection Lane March 26, 2021, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The explosives detection training lane was dedicated and named for Sgt. Derek R. Banks and Sgt. David E. Lambert, who were killed when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device Oct. 25, 2007, while deployed with the West Point-based 237th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command in Iraq.

Three other VNG Soldiers were also injured in the attack: Sgt. James “Andy” Corbett, Spc. Joshua G. Primm and Pfc. Eric T. Holt, all also assigned to the 237th. Corbett and Holt both attended the dedication ceremony. Col. Paul Gravely, Maneuver Training Center Fort Pickett garrison commander, and Lt. Col. Beau Mason, assistant chief of staff for the Virginia Army National Guard and company commander for Banks and Lambert at the time of the attack, both gave remarks during the ceremony.

“We’re humbled and honored to be able to share this occasion with everyone. I’m extremely proud to honor these gentlemen today, and also just as proud to honor the staff that put all their effort into this facility,” said Gravely. “It should be a very good training asset that will render results for Soldiers for years to come. Most of all I’m very proud to dedicate this to two Virginians who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

“As we dedicate this lane today, I hope and pray that every engineer, infantryman, Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine that trains on this lane is imbued with the spirit, passion, drive, knowledge, courage and selflessness that Derek and Bo embodied,” said Mason, referring to Banks and Lambert, who was known as “Bo” to his friends. 

After remarks, Mason, Corbett and Holt unveiled a sign designating the site as the Banks-Lambert Handheld Detection Lane, and two smaller signs with information about Banks and Lambert respectively, allowing those training at the site in the future to learn about their stories. 

The new HHD lane will provide pre-deployment training in explosive hazard detection, and establishes a site for training with handheld explosives detectors. It’s designed to develop and improve skills in locating targets using “LOSS,” which stands for lane coverage, operator stance, search head position and sweep speed. 

The training site encompasses one familiarization lane and three emplacement lanes, and can use varying types of soil to simulate different terrains. Representatives from the Army Asymmetric Threat Training Support Program gave a demonstration of the training lane after the dedication ceremony. 

The capability the training lane will impart on the Soldiers who train there is closely tied to what Banks and Lambert were in Iraq to accomplish in 2007, according to Mason. 

“Comanche Company’s sole purpose was to provide route clearance in support of Multi-National Division Baghdad, a division-level asset,” said Mason. “The mission was to clear the route of IEDs, so that maneuver units, infantry, supply units and other convoys could safely move around Baghdad without the possibility of an IED strike.”

Mason said it wasn’t just chance that Banks and Lambert were in the lead vehicle the day of the strike. 

“When a mission came up, Derek and Bo were the first ones to fight to be in the lead vehicle, the most important vehicle in a route clearance mission next to the Husky, and one of the most dangerous vehicles to be in,” explained Mason. “They volunteered to be the eyes to spot an IED before anyone else could be placed into its danger zone.”

Corbett was the vehicle commander for the truck that was struck, and talked more about Banks and Lambert’s willingness to take on the most dangerous jobs. 

“A lot of people didn’t want to get in that first truck. As leaders of that platoon, we made the decision that first truck is all volunteers. Like Mason taught us, we only wanted the people in that truck who wanted to be in that truck,” explained Corbett, who was injured in the explosion. “We needed people dedicated to the mission and wanted to be there. That’s why we had the same people who rode in that truck almost every single day we were there. Holt was sitting right next to me driving the vehicle the night it happened. Banks, Lambert, Primm, that was our family. That was our crew.”

Corbett said he thought it fitting that Soldiers training on the new lane would be able to learn about Banks and Lambert’s sacrifice while they train. 

“We did everything right. We trained as hard as we could. We still had some bad things happen. That’s why it’s amazing to me we’ve now got an IED lane named after these gentlemen,” said Corbett. “The amount of training you put into it is only going to take you so far. The love and dedication and brotherhood of everyone around you is what’s going to get you the rest of the way there. And when terrible things happen that don’t go our way, we’re still together in it.”

Lambert, who was 39 when he was killed, was a resident of Mavisville, Virginia and was formerly of Cedar Bluff. He studied criminal justice in college and worked for 11 years at Keen Mountain Correctional Center as a corrections officer. He originally enlisted in the Army in 1988 and joined the Virginia National Guard in 2005. He reported for duty in Iraq only one month before the IED strike. 

Lambert served as a driver and automatic weapon gunner in the 237th. He was a specialist at the time of the attack and was posthumously promoted to sergeant. His military awards include a Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Global War on Terror Service Medal, Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal and Combat Action Badge. 

Banks, 24, was from Newport News, Virginia. He died in November 2007 from the same IED strike which killed Lambert. He was also a specialist at the time of the attack and was posthumously promoted to sergeant. He joined the Virginia National Guard in 2002 as a combat engineer, and was instrumental in recruiting many of his friends to also join him in military service, according to a Virginia General Assembly Joint House Resolution issued in 2008. 

Before 2007, he had served in Mosul, Iraq, from March 2004 through March 2005 as a vehicle operator. Banks’ Military awards include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Global War on Terror Service Medal, Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal and Combat Action Badge. 

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