Inside the FBI’s Hazardous Devices School, where demand for bomb techs has never been greater


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Seventeen years after 9/11, the demand for extremely expert bomb techs has by no means been higher due to the proliferation of home made bombs based mostly on web manuals, the director of the FBI’s elite coaching faculty mentioned in an unique interview with Fox Information.

“There’s suicide bombings, there’s distant managed bombs, there’s command bombs, there’s sufferer initiated bombs,” mentioned John Stewart, the director of the FBI’s Hazardous Units College. “All of that we have now to apply and practice on right here as a result of we do not know what we’ll encounter.”

Positioned on the sprawling and extremely secured Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, the Hazardous Units College, or HDS, has licensed greater than 20,000 native, state and federal first responders.

“It takes a drive. It takes a want to wish to assist individuals,” Stewart mentioned of these on the faculty. “You need to have some mechanical expertise. You could have to have the ability to get ideas out of your mind to your arms. You could have to have the ability to improvise comparatively fast as a result of whenever you’re coping with an improvised explosive machine, the phrase improvised means there isn’t any set customary on it.”

A crew from Fox Information not too long ago had unprecedented entry to the coaching, and noticed firsthand how bomb techs study to deal with the shock waves and function below excessive circumstances and stress.

“Proper now there’s about 2,900 that shield us throughout America. They usually all come to right here for his or her preliminary coaching,” Stewart defined. “The certification course the place we take them from a police officer or firefighter with no background to a place the place they will efficiently navigate their manner by an IED name is six weeks lengthy, 30 days of coaching.”

Fox Information’ Catherine Herridge with the Tactical Particular Agent Bomb Techs from the Hazardous Units Coaching College in Huntsville, Alabama.

 (FBI picture)

The FBI crew takes a rigorous and measured method.

“We begin ’em on the very fundamentals,” he mentioned. “We wish to say their ‘crawl, stroll, run part.’ So we’ll begin them on very fundamental stuff after which work them by to extra refined IED issues so on the very finish of the course they’re operating full coaching situations identical to they’d encounter of their hometown.”

Rebecca Miller, an FBI intelligence analyst on the faculty, has targeted the final 4 years of her profession particularly on the improvised explosive machine menace.


She mentioned she tells bomb tech trainees “it’s possible you’ll by no means see any of this in your profession… Chances are you’ll not see a Boston. Chances are you’ll not see a San Bernardino. However Monday, whenever you go dwelling, you would possibly.”

Miller added, “So let’s not get complacent. Keep in your recreation. Keep targeted. Keep educated. And keep secure.”

She mentioned the coaching is pushed by international and home intelligence. 

“Every day, I am going by as a lot intelligence reporting as I can get my arms relative to IED-related occasions,” Miller mentioned. “After which I take that data and search for tendencies, patterns, rising threats.”

Intelligence can be shared by the neighboring FBI lab that analyzes improvised explosives units generally known as TEDAC — the Terrorist Explosive Gadget Analytical Heart. 

“We take a look at that menace stream– what kinds of explosives are being utilized in IEDs, what kinds of containers are being utilized in IEDs,” mentioned Ian Vabnick, the pinnacle of analysis and improvement for the counter IED unit. “A few of that data is coming from the sector. In the event that they see a tool of surprising design or we begin to see a development… that each one involves us after which we attempt to assess whether or not our present procedures and know-how can tackle that menace.”

Bomb tech have embedded with SWAT groups because the 2013 Al Qaeda-inspired Boston Marathon bombing, the place stress cooker bombs killed three and injured a number of hundred others.

Throughout a go to to the college, Fox Information participated in a top-tier drill known as a “class A.” Within the drill, a hostage has a stay machine strapped to the individual’s chest, in addition to a “lifeless man’s change” which detonates if the hostage turns into incapacitated or unconscious.

“Eradicating a hostage machine is clearly the riskiest. The riskiest procedures that we do are guide and hands-on,” mentioned a member of the SWAT crew, whose identification is withheld for safety causes. “And havin’ bomb techs built-in with tactical groups simply appears to make sense to handle the rising menace.”

In March, a serial bundle bomber killed two and injured 5 in Austin, Texas — a development the FBI crew is monitoring.

“Now we have seen most likely a rise in parcel bombs,” Miller, the intelligence analyst, mentioned. “That has been occurring possibly because the mid-2016 timeframe. Now we have seen a rise in excessive explosives and other people making their very own explosives which can be very delicate, which can be very unstable.”

Stewart and different crew members mentioned frequent coaching and requirements matter.

“What that does is permit all people in the neighborhood to coach and converse the identical language, use the identical techniques, strategies, and procedures so after we do have an incident like Boston, just like the Austin bombings and we have now to surge bomb techs from surrounding municipalities, they will work collectively, combine collectively far more seamlessly, and it gives the general public one other stage of safety,” he mentioned.

Requested how they placed on a bomb tech swimsuit and stroll downrange to recover from a probably lethal machine, Lt. Chris King with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Workplace in Florida mentioned the coaching is obvious. He mentioned the aim is “go distant, keep distant, however there are going to be timeframes the place that simply does not occur.”

The Fox Information crew visited the college’s memorial wall with King. One plaque is clean.

“Our aim,” King mentioned, is “to make sure that that plaque stays empty. That we do not have one other title on that.”

Fox Information’ Pamela Okay. Browne contributed to this report.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX Information Channel (FNC) based mostly in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Division and the Division of Homeland Safety. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

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