JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA —
The 628th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight hosted a joint training exercise for the Charleston County Bomb Squad here Sept. 21, 2016.
Because the skillsets of the two units are different, training together allows them to share their varied expertise. The collaborative training creates familiarity with each other’s tactics and more effective efforts during joint responses.
“The biggest obstacle across the country is lack of inoperability between the military and civilian law enforcement bomb teams,” said Charleston County Police Sgt. Carl Makin, CCBS hazardous devices technician. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve become really close. This exercise helps us know each other’s strengths and limitations.”
A common occurrence in the Charleston area is the discovery of ordnance from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Much of this unexploded ordnance is found off base which results in CCBS being called. However, once they’re on scene and see it’s a military ordnance, CCBS is required to call EOD for disposal.
“If we believe from the onset it is military ordnance, we always call,” said Charleston County Police Lt. Michael Knox, CCBS commander. “If it is confirmed, we contact command post and EOD comes to pick it up. Charleston received a great deal of bombardment during the Civil War and with all the construction going on around here, CCBS finds old military ordnance frequently.”
To receive state funding, the CCBS must complete an exercise demonstrating their ability to execute job-related duties and show they are proficient with their equipment for state inspectors. By navigating through a scenario designed by base EOD, CCBS applied their skillset to situations they don’t normally encounter.
“By EOD setting up a scenario, while not overly complicated, it’s something a little more challenging than the average grenade call,” said Knox. “It makes my people start to use the logic tree and go step by step like they normally do. It also involves pretty much the whole team. You’ve got everyone there with a job to do. These exercises better prepare them for calls where it just isn’t a simple situation.”
For each exercise scenario, the team was briefed on the situation, created a strategy and sent a bomb disposal robot to get a visual. After verifying the suspect package was a bomb, it was neutralized and a team analyzed the remnants.
“The main purpose today was to ensure all of our protocols are in place and all of the guys are on the same wavelength,” said Knox. “Rarely do we have everybody together like this, however the future exercises are going to involve several different agencies. I wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page. I’d rather have everything ironed out before-hand. The base did an excellent job of providing a scenario with a little more critical thinking than your average goal.”
Training with a unit nearly three times the size of their own gave the CCBS an opportunity to see and hear issues through a wider variety of perspectives. But training together also benefits EOD by experiencing unfamiliar scenarios such as drug labs.
“I think the training went great,” said Knox. “My sergeant pointed out a couple of things to me the guys could’ve done a little differently, but the thing about EOD work is it usually involves about a million ways to do it and there’s not a wrong answer in most cases. There are a few things we need to tweak, but overall, I think it worked out well.”
After running through scenarios for several hours, the teams continued their team building effort with a cookout at the EOD flight’s building.
This training was a huge benefit for the both of us and after seeing what happened out here, I fully believe my guys are ready,” said Knox. “I’d really like to thank the Air Force, especially the EOD team. They did a fantastic job of setting up the scenario. They’ve been extremely helpful and very easy to work with.”