SATSOP — An explosion rocks the ground as a shockwave rips through the air. Smoke billows from the shattered windows of a city bus. Chaos ensues as screaming victims scramble to exit the twisted wreckage. Wounded and deaf passengers with a constant ringing in their ears stumble about the aftermath of the explosion.
This is not another terrorist attack, but a training event to prepare bomb technicians for possible future situations.
Bomb technicians from across Washington state joined together to demonstrate their skills and trade technical knowledge at the abandoned Satsop Nuclear Power Plant near Elma on Aug. 14. The exercise, called Raven’s Challenge, is an annual three-day event that brings together agencies like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Seattle Port Authority, Army and Army National Guard explosive ordinance disposal units and bomb squads from cities throughout the state.
The event included training lanes that ranged from neutralizing improvised explosive devices to scenarios involving the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Bomb technicians also viewed the latest in remote controlled search robots and trained to improve their ability to use them.
“We are here to refine the training we already have,” said Spc. Henry Cordero, 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 3rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion. “I love training out here with these units; I get to see what our fellow EOD brothers have to offer.”
Cordero, an Atlanta native, received praise from his superiors after making a perfect shot at a target during one demonstration of new technology. The target was out of sight and hidden inside a metal box. He used an X-ray device aligned with a targeting grid to give him exact coordinates on the target while viewing it on a computer screen. He then set up a precision-actuated neutralizing shot that renders explosive devices safe by taking out key components.
Cordero said this device could be used in many situations where the threat of a bomb is out of direct site and may be booby-trapped.
The military EOD teams could be called into action outside of war zones and their training areas. Bomb threats and finding real explosive devices are a possibility in today’s society.
“This training is designed to address live and realistic bomb scenes and to show that military and law enforcement can work together side by side to disrupt devices and keep the public safe,” said ATF special agent Helen Dunkel.
Dunkel said they want to ensure if an incident occurs that is outside the scope of civilian authorities and the military needs to be called in that it wouldn’t be the first time the teams had worked together.
Sgt. 1st Class Elliot Bray, platoon sergeant, 787th EOD Co., said an exercise like this allows both military and civilian bomb technicians to exchange ideas and expertise in their field. Bray has encountered more than 200 improvised explosive devices during his deployments to Afghanistan. He emphasized that his focus in a warzone was always to neutralize the threat as quick as possible with a secondary focus on evidence collection because they could come under enemy fire at anytime.
He said that during an exercise like Raven’s Challenge, his soldiers get an opportunity to see how civilian authorities handle a situation. Both agencies want to neutralize the bomb, however civilian teams are able to take more time and focus on evidence collection to catch the person responsible for the threat. He said that this training teaches his soldiers more about the evidence collection process and the soldiers can share their experiences having dealt with numerous devices.
After all the training and team building the various agencies left with new ideas and a strong foundation for a working relationship in the future. They hope their skills won’t be tested, but are ready for any challenge.