By Amanda Kim StairrettAugust 8, 2012
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Four large explosions rocked Fort Riley's Live-Fire Trench Complex recently as civilian bomb technicians and ordnance Soldiers prepared their peers for some of the most in-depth training in their field.
Professionally constructed homemade ammonium nitrate bombs were detonated in three vehicles and in the ground as part of the FBI's Large Vehicle Bomb Post-Blast course. Law enforcement officials from Kansas and Oklahoma participated in the five-day training alongside Soldiers with Fort Riley's 84th Explosive Ordnance Disposal.
The 84th EOD is a tenant unit at Fort Riley and the 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Infantry Division provides its Soldiers with limited administrative support. The battalion falls under the 71st Ordnance Group (EOD), 20th Support Command (CBRNE), which are located at Fort Carson, Colo., and Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., respectively.
The battalion's headquarters is serving in Afghanistan, and one of its three companies is preparing to deploy soon.
The training was conducted with the FBI. Fort Riley's EOD Soldiers already work with the agency, and they have a presence at monthly bomb technician meetings in Kansas City, said Capt. Chad Huggins, commander, 162nd Ordnance Company (EOD).
That partnership makes joint training possible, and, as Huggins said, strengthens community ties. The course took place on post and was led by the FBI and filled with students from the battalion, Kansas highway patrolmen and bomb squad members from Kansas and Oklahoma.
Although a majority of the EOD Soldiers' time is spent training for missions downrange, the Large Vehicle Bomb Post-Blast course focused on the civilian side of identifying bombs and their makers.
This aspect of the Soldiers' jobs is part of the Army Universal Task List, which dictates units must provide EOD support to civilian agencies, according to information from the Army. Fort Riley EOD Soldiers' area of support includes Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa, Huggins said.
Support is the key word in those partnerships, as the Posse Comitatus Act bars the Army from enforcing laws.
"We will be there to assist, but never take control," Huggins said.
It's important for the public to know "we're not dragging the military into a law enforcement role," said Jonathan Tucker, a former Marine and an FBI special agent bomb technician based in Kansas City. The goal is the share expertise to provide greater public safety, he added.
This is the third time in the last five years Fort Riley has hosted the course. Twelve similar classes are hosted each year across the country, Tucker said. The training requires students to investigate a blast site to determine the vehicles used to deliver the bombs and the components used to create and detonate them.
The bombs they try to identify are delivered in vehicles and designed for mass casualties and structural damage, Huggins said. This scenario revolved around a car, van and truck containing 100-, 125- and 400-pound bombs, respectively, and a buried, 25-pound bomb.
They were detonated July 17, and students sifted through the wreckage for evidence July 18. The explosions obliterated the vehicles. The biggest pieces left intact were the engines, and the prairie was littered with small, hard-to-identify bits of metal, upholstery and vehicle innards.
Soldiers and their classmates visited each blast site in teams, marking what they thought could be bomb fragments and detonation devices with flags. Collection teams carefully gathered and logged each piece.
An advantage to hosting the course is getting a majority of the available slots, Huggins said. When it is off post, Soldiers might only get a few spots because of funding and size limitations. All of the 162nd Co.'s bomb technicians got to participate in the course. Of those, 70 percent had never received that specific training.
The course was an excellent opportunity for military and civilian bomb technicians to work a site together, said Lt. Kyle Moomau, Kansas Highway Patrol. The training scenario fit with the partnership, too. Because there were multiple blast sites that covered a large area, it was the kind of situation where civilian agencies would likely call upon the Army for support, Moomau said.
It was nice to get out and interact with local, state and national law enforcement officials, said Spc. David Nakasone. His job at the explosion sites was to help find and mark evidence. At the site of the 25-pound bomb detonation, he lowered himself into the crater and searched under rock-hard chunks of dirt for fragments.
Spc. Tyler Porter, who at 19 is the 162nd EOD Co.'s youngest Soldier, served on the same search team as Nakasone. He wanted to be an EOD Soldier because he liked the small-team concept, and the specialty skill set was pretty unique to the rest of the Army, he said.
The course had good training value, he added, and would definitely help in the future.
The civilian investigators and technicians benefitted greatly from the joint training because the military has the leading experts on vehicle bombs based on their work in theater, Moomau said.
"They transfer some of that knowledge to us," he added.