In the halls of this building on Redstone Arsenal, hangs a series of plaques. Each one represents a graduating class from the FBI’s Hazardous Devices School.
Jeff Warren, Hazardous Devices School Director, says, “all 3100 bomb technicians in the US come through these doors to get their basic certification.”
In September, three pipe bombs exploded and several explosive devices were found in New York and New Jersey. The bomb squad that responded to the incident was made up of graduates of the Hazardous Devices School.
“You saw those bomb technicians out using robots and using techniques that they learned here, says Warren.” “The FBI doesn’t take that responsibility lightly.”
Along with some of his instructors, Warren offered us a behind the scenes look at the school that plays a critical role in our nation’s security.
Deputy Program Manager Matthew Osborn says, “The first week is heavy classroom. The rest of the five weeks, we try to keep them out with realistic scenarios as much as possible.”
“Training in situations as close to real life as possible is vital for the students here,” Chase Gallimore reports. “You can see behind me a replica of Ted Kazynski compound including his cabin and outhouse. And, then over here, we have the exact truck that belonged to Eric Rudolph.”
“It’s a big difference if you have a bomb technician have to imagine that he is in a movie theater when he’s in an empty field that we tape off,” says Warren. “We actually have a movie theater for our training.”
Also on site, is a replica church, a strip mall, and even a train station. There are 12 training environments in all.
The bomb suit weighs more than 50 pounds. When I was suited up, I was given the task of carrying a piece of equipment about 20 yards. But once I completed that task, my test wasn’t over.
“One of the first things the students do training, is go through this exercise, where they are laid on their back. They have to roll over and try to get up… just like that.”
Bomb technicians are trained to work with these hand tools. However, Warren says the most important tool in the technicicans tool box is operated remotely.
“Go remote, stay remote,” says Warren. “The only time we’re not going to go remote, where we’re going to put our hands on an IED, or a suspected IED is when it’s a life threatening situation of some kind.”
These robots offer a bomb technician an up close view of an explosive device without getting directly in harms way.
“With the help of an instructor, I was able to guide the robot to the pvc pipe, get a grip and take it to the containment vessel.”
And with training received right here in the Rocket City, bomb technicians are prepared to take lead role in the fight against terrorism across the nation.
“For over 3100 people this is their life blood. If we fail at training here, we fail out there,” says Osborn.
The final stop on our tour of the Hazardous Devices School was at the National Bomb Technician Memorial on campus. There is a plaque for each of the men who’ve been killed in the line of duty.
In this clip, Director Jeff Warren explains the significance of the Memorial and why he believes it’s the most important part of the school.