Mobile Homemade Explosives Lab
Staff Sgt. Andrew Gentry, of the 717th EOD Company from Fort Campbell, Ky., surveys the scene at a mobile homemade explosives lab scenario during last week's exercise.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--Redstone Arsenal has helped form the nation's new strategy against improvised explosives devices.

Military and public safety bomb squads participated Aug. 15-19 in an interoperability exercise at the Hazardous Devices School. The Department of Army resourced it while the school did the planning and execution.

"There's currently an effort ongoing in Washington, D.C., to update the counter-IED strategy for the United States," Lt. Col. Marty Weber, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal branch chief with Army headquarters G-38 (counter-IED) at the Pentagon, said. "And the latest release of the strategy will occur with the anniversary of Sept. 11th. And that will be the president's strategy for countering IEDs in the homeland.

"And what we're trying to accomplish here is taking a look at interoperability of public safety bomb squads and military (Explosive Ordnance Disposal units)."

The three Pentagon representatives included Weber along with a sergeant major and an observer from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Policy).

The military participants were from the 717th EOD Company at Fort Campbell, Ky. The public safety bomb squads included representatives from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Portland (Ore.) Police Department and the Las Vegas Fire Department. There were 18 participants altogether.

"It's a mixture of military and public safety bomb squads," Weber said.

This was the first such exercise; and officials plan for it to be done every year, not always at Redstone. "Our intent is to also involve the other services -- so the Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy as well," Weber said.

The initial planning began between February and April. And the resulting policy should coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks and will be President Obama's revised counter-IED strategy.

"It (the exercise) came about from evaluating and looking long-term if we have a sustained IED campaign against the homeland, we know that there's going to have to be interaction between military EOD and the public safety bomb squads," said Weber, who is from Salina, Kan., and finished EOD training at Redstone in 1992.

"It's going well," he said during the exercise. "The operators, being the bomb techs themselves, work very well together."

The 717th EOD Company commander is Capt. Chris Schkerke, from St. Louis, and his first sergeant is 1st Sgt. Jeff Wilson. They brought three teams for a total of nine Soldiers. Paul Carter directs the Hazardous Devices School, which represents a partnership between the Army and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"It's awesome," Schkerke said, "because you get the opportunity to have your military teams interact with the civilian bomb squads. So we're identifying what our differences our -- tactics and things like that."

Mike Clayton, special agent in charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, brought two others.

"It's very good," Clayton said. "The civilian bomb squads working with military bomb squads. We're working with them, they're working with us. Sharing ideas. It's good."

The scenarios included varied improvised explosive devices such as homemade explosive labs and vehicle-borne IEDs.

Patrick Gehringer, a supervisory instructor at the Hazardous Devices School, sees the importance of the exercise.

"I think that it is an absolutely necessary step so that the Army and civilian bomb techs will be able to work together effectively in the future," Gehringer said. "And it's just one of those things we have to do in order to be prepared to combat terrorism."

Page last updated Thu August 25th, 2011 at 00:00