FBI hosts blast investigation training at Eglin

  • Published
  • By Samuel King Jr.
  • Team Eglin Public Affairs
Improvised explosive devices ripped through three vehicles, sending debris up and out as far as 1,500 feet, creating a sprawling scene of devastation across Eglin's ranges Sept. 27.

The explosions initiated the FBI's Large Vehicle Bomb Post Blast School for approximately 53 state and local law enforcement officers as well as Naval and Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians. There were four explosions in all, creating distinct "crime scenes" that included a roadside bomb.

Crime scene investigators from 18 different U.S. agencies had to pick up the pieces--literally--from the scattered wreckage that set the forensic groundwork for a criminal or terrorist investigation.

"It's up to them to determine what kind of vehicle blew up," said Special Agent Kevin Miles, who taught the week-long school. "You'd be surprised at how much is left. The students just have to find it and build a case from the clues."

This was the 128th post-blast school class held by the FBI and only the second held on Eglin's ranges. The class was dedicated to Tech. Sgt. Daniel Douville, Eglin's own EOD technician who fell in the line of duty in June.

"Eglin's large scale range made it a perfect size for a big group and also provided options for multiple scenarios," said Special Agent Sam Mum, a bomb technician with FBI in Jacksonville, Fla. "We hope to continue the relationship with the base and host a school here every year."

The groups were split into teams by specialty prior to arriving at the scene. The on-scene commander assigned the teams a task and scene to begin investigating. Their goal was to estimate the quantity and type of explosives used, vehicle type and blast range.

"This training will become a crucial tool in their toolbag," said Mum. "If there's an incident, typically local law enforcement is the first on scene. With this training, they are able to assess the situation, gather information and determine the best procedures."

Those assessments help determine if the blast is an act of terrorism. If it is ruled as a terrorist act, the FBI has the lead in the investigation. With the training, the students can better prepare the scene and the FBI for what to expect upon arrival.

Airmen from Tyndall's EOD flight attended the school and Eglin's EOD was responsible for the controlled detonations. The Airmen worked directly with law enforcement officials and shared ideas and expertise when working through the case.

The training also helped the military technicians build off the training they already had, according to Staff Sgt. Aaron Carroll, from the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron.

"This course provides insight we can use on post-blast scenes we may encounter when we deploy," Carroll said. "It provides experience on what to look for, so we can accurately analyze the scene quicker while in a hostile environment."

Detective Alex Manjasek, of the Daytona Beach Police Department, and two others interviewed key witnesses at the blast scene.

"As an instructor in my department, I'll definitely take back what I learned and pass it along," said Manjasek. "The course gives us a clearer understanding of how to respond to such an incident and assist."

After the teams gathered their evidence, they presented their case to a prosecutor. For this class, Ryan Love, assistant U.S. attorney for Pensacola, Fla., grilled them on the details of their case to ensure nothing could be left to chance or circumstance and proper procedures were followed. After presenting their findings, the students saw a video of the set ups, explosives and detonations to find out if their case was sound.

"Truly, my hats off to you guys," said Love. "You play such an important role in these cases. I visited the Oklahoma City bombing museum recently and thought about how difficult it would be to stay focused on the mission amid the chaos of a blast scene. You have to fall back on your training and courses like this."