Bomb techs learn new techniques, briefed on latest intelligence on Redstone Arsenal

The Hazardous Devices School is the one and only training school for every bomb technician in the country.

Posted: Jul 6, 2018 5:49 AM
Updated: Jul 6, 2018 6:18 AM

It's a cycle of endless evaluation for instructors at the Hazardous Devices School on Redstone Arsenal.

Instructors are always adjusting what and how they teach the next generation of bomb techs.

"There could be a new device that comes out today that nobody's seen, but what we try to do through intelligence gathering is 'what's out there?' 'What are the terrorists or the bad guys using?'," Kelly Boaz, FBI explosive operations specialist, said.

When students arrive on campus they're immediately briefed on the latest intelligence which includes what investigators saw in Boston, Orlando, and Austin.

"That's what we need to do here at the school is introduce that so when they see it outside, when they leave here and see it for real, it's a road they've already traveled," Boaz said.

"New techniques, new devices, more complicated problems that we have to solve," Jose Gaytan, New Mexico State Police bomb technician, said.

There's also new gear to keep techs safe.

"This is the newest suit we have, it's called an EOD 10," Mark Vargo, FBI instructor, said.

It's the most protective and lightweight bomb suit yet. It's four pieces and weighs 75 pounds.

"We have a battery pack here on this side. We have your controller here on this arm. You have a speaker system here where you can talk and we can hear you well," Vargo said.

Every first time bomb tech has to pass a variety of drills.

One of the drills requires techs to suit up, get on their knees, drop to their stomachs, roll over, and get themselves back up.

Thankfully, advances in technology mean bomb techs suit up less often than in years past.

Now, they typically use x-ray machines and robots controlled from a truck.

The new technology helps keep techs as far away as possible from an explosion as they neutralize a possible bomb.

They want to preserve evidence but also stop the threat.

"There's not an exact procedure to address every situation, but there is a generally accepted logic that's used for that situational awareness and how you would approach it to make it safe," Green said.

The school sits on a 450-acre campus with over 20 training villages ranging from high rise buildings to bus terminals.

"You're doing scenarios, you're making decisions, we're looking at the decisions you're making," Boaz said.

The training creates a sort of uniform muscle memory etched into the minds of 3,000 active bomb technicians who are broken into roughly 460 bomb squads in cities across the country.

"We all speak the same language. I could be in New York with another bomb squad and I could jump in their truck and work with them very easily," Gaytan said.

The initial certification is six weeks. Techs have to come back to the school for one week every three years for recertification.

"This is the one and only alma mater, and you can always come together at a crisis scene and immediately integrate and work together to save lives," Green said.

The techs trained on the arsenal are public service bomb technicians.

Military bomb technicians are trained at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

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