By Skip Vaughn, USAG RedstoneJuly 22, 2014
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- A group conducts a large theft of explosive materials which then wind up in various parts of the United States. Subsequent explosions occur nationally. Authorities trace the material and confirm its origin.
This was a basic scenario for the more than weeklong eighth annual Raven's Challenge, an interagency counter improvised explosive device response exercise conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in partnership with the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. The national exercise involved simultaneous training in the state of Washington, with maritime activities near Olympia and Tacoma, as well as events in Arizona, Alabama and Washington, D.C. It culminated July 2 with explosive ordnance disposal efforts at the ATF's Capano Range on Redstone.
Participants included bomb squads from across Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. Military bomb disposal teams from throughout the Southeast cross trained with their state, local and international partners.
"It breeds familiarity between the public safety and military folks," Don Robinson, special agent in charge of the ATF's National Center for Explosives Training and Research at Redstone, said.
ATF explosives enforcement officer Phil Whitley, coordinator for the Redstone event, conducted a media tour of the command post inside the center's classroom building. The realistic training supports current and future preparedness, according to Whitley.
"It'll make us better for the future as well as better for today," he said.
The interagency exchange between bomb disposal units also provided leadership at the local, state and federal levels the opportunity to exercise decision making processes during a crisis.
Air Force National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jeff Quick, 33, from Lincoln, Nebraska, was among the three participants from the 155th Explosives Ordnance Disposal, which is under the 155th Air Refueling Wing out of Lincoln. The EOD operator arrived at Redstone on June 26 with Tech. Sgt. Michael Gibson and Staff Sgt. Jacob Payton.
"I've learned a lot," said Quick, who has been in the Air Force 14 years. "Not only from the ATF but from the civilian counterparts that are here. It's once-in-a-lifetime training I can't get anywhere else."
Quick said he enjoys what he's doing in his career. He and his wife, Jeanie, have a son, Micah, 3, and are expecting their second child in November.
"I've never been in an exercise that involved Air Force, Army, ATF, FBI and civilian police officers. Nor would I have a chance to anywhere else," Quick said.
Brad Burns, 40, a bomb technician with the Metro Nashville Police Department, was one of the department's two participants. He and Kevin Pollard traveled here while the department's other two bomb technicians stayed on duty in Nashville.
"I think it's a great learning experience," said Burns, who attended the Hazardous Devices School at Redstone in 2008. "It helps me better understand the mission of our EOD counterparts in the military, how they respond to things and what they're accustomed to seeing overseas.
"We routinely do training but the magnitude of this one is the largest that I've seen that I've been able to participate in."
Staff Sgt. Jarrod Snead, 30, is an EOD team leader from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He was among five Soldiers here from Fort Campbell.
"It's good training," he said while cooling down in his bomb suit under the hot sun July 1. "It's a great networking and interoperability exercise."
Snead arrived June 29 and returned to Fort Campbell on July 2. In his three years in EOD, this was his first such exercise.