CAMP BLANDING, Fla - U.S. Army explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technicians from the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command trained with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies at Raven's Challenge March 2-6 at Camp Blanding, Florida.
Raven's Challenge brings the world's leading EOD experts together to train with military units and public safety bomb squads in realistic live fire scenarios. The training is designed to test problem solving to tackle emerging threats.
"It brings our public safety partners with our military partners together. Our ultimate goal is for everyone to leave with a better understanding of each other's capabilities," said John Simpson, Raven's Challenge program manager.
The multi-agency, international, full-scale exercise uses current, real-world scenarios to train not only military units but also city, county, state and federal bomb squads, as well as international EOD units.
"This exercise allows us to work with our civilian counterparts, and we can take away lessons on techniques and tactics that we wouldn't normally employ," said Staff Sgt. Heather Cockrell, 744th Ordnance Company (EOD).
Cockrell added that learning other organizations' procedures and working out how to nest them within the Army's processes allows them to operate seamlessly.
"This exercise was invaluable to me. I believe the training opportunity with the civilian side gives us an experience that we wouldn't normally have until an actual live situation," Cockrell said.
This week-long, non-graded exercise pits EOD teams against emerging threats in a challenging environment across multiple scenarios and training events.
"I don't believe any other interagency partnership exists that is as strong as Raven's Challenge," said Col. Colin P. (Pat) Nikkila, deputy commanding officer, 20th CBRNE Command. The command had three teams at this Raven's Challenge.
Challenges that teams face include suitcase devices, munitions, mines, safes, ATMs and fixed wing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). This year saw changes to that final problem, as fixed-wing UAS can carry more weight than rotor driven drones. Additionally, the challenge hosted to mass-transit scenarios with a commuter bus and train tank car.
"We put a tremendous amount of resources into realism," Simpson said. "We are just big on realism and live fire." He added that participants had a huge menu of live-fire options they could use on site and on demand.
"They have the ability to do all those things out here at Raven's Challenge, and we provide it all," he said.
The training also focuses on staying abreast of current events is also a prime focus of training. Simpson said they really look at what is happening in the world and "can turn on a dime" to reset training to match real-world events.
"If it's new and emerging... we're on it," he said.
The week-long event hosted eight international teams, as well as various federal and local agencies.
"This is a jewel in the world of exercises. No one else does this on a national scale," Simpson said.