This week Marana was home to one of four stops in this year’s Raven’s Challenge, the world’s largest bomb squad training. 18 combined teams of military explosive ordnance disposal specialists and state and local public safety bomb squads will go through a series of regional exercises that are focused on tactics. The goal: to exchange ideas on how to best neutralize improvised explosive devices.
Scenarios range from up-and-coming issues like juvenile crimes to manual booby traps. The program runs on a non-evaluative environment, where participants judge themselves on how they approached different scenarios.
Program Manager Greg Smith says this opportunity allows personnel at every level of public safety to exchange ideas they would not normally have done before. For example, historically local law enforcement have been more interested in gathering evidence for investigations and prosecutions.
“As things developed, the military’s become much more adept and interested in collecting evidence both in Iraq, Afghanistan. That exchange between the military and civilian public safety has enhanced both sides' capabilities.”
Tucson Police Department’s Special Operations Commander Thomas Hawk was a first time attendee. He believes it will help TPD create deeper relationships with state and federal agencies.
“Getting this training in now and getting those relationships and partnerships will be beneficial in the event that there is a major, critical incident where these teams all have to come together.”
While the training happens in different cities each year, training is different in Marana. Subject Matter Expert David Bebout says bringing the event here allows for training on commercial aircraft since there is a ‘boneyard’ of decommissioned planes.
“It’s quite unique because it’s hard to get on an aircraft that is actually in service to use as we know the complexity and the cost of an aircraft.”
Years ago, the Pinal Airpark was home to the Marana Army Airfield during World War II. The area at the time was used as a destination for Air Force Units to train.
Since then, it has become home to the largest commercial aircraft storage facility in the world and is used by National Guard Units and Special Operations. Now, trainees may be able to practice scenarios on commercial aircraft that they would not have had access to before.
For professionals like EOD technician Brenden Moore, this allowed him to test his skills in scenarios like drone simulations. Before he goes to set up an x-ray of the improvised explosive device, Moore gets dressed in an EOD 10 bomb suit that weighs approximately 120 pounds. Designed to protect him from a one pound block of TNT, the suit is made of kevlar and ceramic plates.
When asked why he chose to specialize in explosives engineering, he said:
“I like blowing stuff up. It’s a good adrenaline rush and I enjoy the work.”
But, Moore has yet to experience a blast in the suit saying he is “really good at his job.”
Raven’s challenge has grown from a national initiative to a program that is recognized internationally. This year, attendees came from as far as Denmark and Belgium.