Improved training helps forensics team prepare for Afghanistan deployment
April 5, 2011
- apg,aberdeen proving ground,20th support command
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - When a forensics team from Aberdeen Proving Ground deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan two years ago, they left with four months notice, a crude validation exercise and had a steep learning curve. Today, the officer-in-charge of that team is busy training the new lead and his unit, who will have nine months of individual and group preparatory training with various agencies, as well as weekly contact with the current unit in place before they deploy this summer.
Maj. Anthony Kazor, 22nd Chemical Battalion (Technical Escort), admitted that when he deployed as the lab lead of the Combined Explosives Exploitation Cell in 2009, the first 60 days "was drinking by fire hose." As the first officer in charge for an Army CEXC lab, he's not only seen the gradual improvement in training, but has been part of it.
He recently helped train Capt. Matthew Mason, 22nd Chemical Battalion (TE), and his team of 11 Soldiers and two contractors during a realistic portrayal of what the group can expect during their 12-month deployment. The scenario training that took place at the Warrior Training Center, a cold, concrete building on APG South, mirrored some conditions expected downrange where they'll be part of Task Force Paladin, a specialized unit charged with combating IEDs.
During the training, the team, which includes experts in biometrics, photography, intelligence, electronics, and explosive ordnance disposal, sectioned off areas of the building as they would in
theater. As IEDs, post-blast bomb pieces, hoax devices that look like IED's but have dummy main charges, or IED cache are brought in, they go through different labs. First stop, triage with EOD.
An IED might still have explosive material, according to Mason, so three EOD technicians examine the evidence and often times use an X-ray machine to ascertain whether anything is still considered dangerous. They document and inventory all items received, enter information into a data base and assign a bar code to track the item. Investigations are prioritized and can take from 24-hours to 28 days before completion.
"They can have multiple cases at the same time," explained Kazor. "Pretty much everyone in the lab is employed full time. Everyone is always busy."
During this training, after one and a half days, the team had already begun processing more than 20 cases, all listed on a white board and logged into a book as a double backup system.
After the IED is rendered safe, it goes to the photography lab where the item is photographed from all angles. Photos are entered into the database and included with a report.
While the CEXC lab does tactical level intelligence and analysis on the IEDs, agencies in the U.S. with access to the data base begin reviewing and conduct further analysis at the strategic level.
The ultimate goal is to find and apprehend the bomb maker. To assist in this, the IED goes through the remaining CEXC labs - biometric, electronics, and intelligence.
In the biometrics lab, experts use law enforcement techniques to draw out fingerprints then enter them in the database. During the electronic evaluation, technical experts can obtain information
on an IED even after detonation. Information is again analyzed, evaluated and documented with multiple checks and balances. The OIC and NCOIC review reports to ensure they are filled out and
can paint a picture for analysts in theater and abroad. Quick snapshot reports are pushed throughout the theater so war fighters have the latest information.
"Soldiers sometimes find it hard to see the whole picture," said Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy Cruz, NCOIC of the CEXC team preparing to deploy. "Here, right next to each other, you can see the overall
impact your job can have on the whole theater."
"They see the evidence of their work when we get reports back saying 'evidence from your discovery led to the processing and arrest of this insurgent and he got this many years of jail time,'" Mason added.