EGLIN AFB, Fla. (NNS, 6/11/2013) — The staff and students at the Naval School of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (NAVSCOLEOD) Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Division credit the improvements made during the past year as having significantly increased training realism at the school.
Upgraded projects included robot training lanes, a structure to simulate night operations for training with the EOD robot, and an obstacle course for students to maneuver through while wearing the bomb suit. Multiple updates were also made to various simulated scenarios to provide additional realism.
“Until recently, the area that now contains the robot training lanes was covered with trees,” said Army Capt. Nicholas Drury, IED Division officer in charge. “Staff, students and instructors volunteered to construct training lanes from material that wasn’t being used.”
For various projects and recycling excess materials, the volunteers have helped the command avoid significant construction costs for the upgrades.
The three new obstacle courses, three emplacement lanes, including roadways, culverts and five test lanes help streamline the students’ familiarization on maneuvering robots over and under obstacles, up staircases, down ramps and through tunnels. The students operate the robots in search procedures, device location, render-safe procedures and evidence collection.
“Before the course upgrades, students spent one training day on the previously makeshift training lanes,” Drury continued. “Now, students spend three days working with the robots and one day testing their newly-developed proficiency.”
The bomb suit familiarization obstacle course, also constructed using excess materials, provides students an opportunity to don a bomb suit and learn its capabilities, and its limitations, and to improve on their dexterity and situational awareness while in the suit. Students that are “suited-up” traverse through low and high bars, walk up and down a flight of stairs, and continue through a culvert to place a designated tool. One of the exercise’s learning objectives is show students when it is safe to remove the suit.
“This course builds confidence when wearing the bomb suit,” said Senior Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Joseph Severino, IED division non-commissioned officer in charge. “Students receive personal protective equipment instruction regarding the suit in a classroom, but the lab portion of instruction is here at the new obstacle course.”
The most significant improvements to these simulations are the new realism and intricate details in the training sites. One of the scenarios includes a bus depot complete with ticket counter, luggage, computer, phones, lockers and a bus. Other sites have structures such as a bank, church, a service mart, gas station, coffee shop, post office, diner, day care facilities, pub, hardware store in a strip mall setting, storage center, homemade explosives lab, and a mobile home park. These locations have various details in and around the structures to simulate stateside areas, such as storage materials, furniture, dishes, cell phones and magazines. A training site, representing a mud-hut village outside the continental United States, is complete with vehicles, fake animals, sleeping quarters and a room set-up for the construction of home-made bombs.
“On day 16 of training, I had to wear the bomb suit and investigate suspicious items at a mobile home park,” said Army Spc. Nathanial Pekarski, student. “It was a pretty realistic scenario drawn from a real-world situation.”
The course syllabus places students in realistic scenarios and requires them to consider multiple factors, including rendering safe ordnance and minimizing explosive effects on the surrounding areas and personnel.
“In the scenario,” said Pekarski, “we had to consider the property and the safe evacuation of people, as well as how to interact with local witnesses and law enforcement.”
In addition to the realism of the structures and details inside, students receive training on how to observe not only the items in the rooms they enter, but to also be aware of hidden explosives, or “booby traps.”
“We really never know when or where IED attacks are going to take place,” said Drury. “The fact that they are occurring within the United States really reinforces the significance of our training. The bottom line is we need to be prepared.”
NAVSCOLEOD, located on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. provides high-risk, specialized, basic and advanced EOD training to more than 2,100 U.S., partner nation military and selected U.S. government personnel each year.
For more information on the Naval School of Explosive Ordnance Disposal, visit the NAVSCOLEOD website: https://www.netc.navy.mil/centers/ceneoddive/eods/ .