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Navy EOD Tech Division Combats IEDs during Excercise Bold Alligator

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS141030-07
Release Date: 10/30/2014 2:08:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jared Aldape, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 Public Affairs

BOGUE, N.C. (NNS) -- Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technicians assigned to EOD Mobile Unit (EODMU) 6 conducted a post-blast analysis at the site of a simulated improvised explosive device (IED) during Exercise Bold Alligator 2014 in Bougue, North Carolina, Oct. 29.

This scenario is common in parts of the world where terrorists use IED's when engaging in asymmetric warfare.

'We conduct our investigation to find out what happened, how big the explosion was and to learn what was the target,' said Explosive Ordnance Technician 2nd Class John Bueras, assigned to EODMU 6.

EOD technicians do this in a variety of ways, including measuring the crater of the blast, taking samples of the affected soil, and gathering components of the expended IED.

'We collect anything that looks like it has evidentiary value and photograph the scene,' said Bueras.

Though EODMU 6 was successful in conducting their investigation and recovering IED materials and soil samples from their findings, the handling of the inert explosive must proceed to the Naval Surface Center Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division (NSWC IHEODTD) for further analysis.

EOD technicians call upon the forensic capabilities of the Combined Explosives Exploitation Cell (CEXC) to uncover telling details of an explosive's origin. The unit serves as the link between tactical operations and the intelligence community of the armed forces.

Todd Isham, an analyst with Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head EOD Technology Division (NSWC IHEODTD) and a former Navy intelligence specialist, is on hand to receive the remnants of a simulated IED that EOD technicians have recovered as part of a training scenario at BA14.

Isham and a small team of analysts who make up the CEXC unit at the exercise work in a laboratory no bigger than a small trailer, but inside one can find x-ray machines, optical gear, chemical testing systems, and equipment used for the handling and processing of IED components.

'Through our research, we see how terrorists use the explosives,' said Isham. 'We uncover their tactics, we look at the electronics and how IEDs are wired up. We find out how they are used and figure out how to defeat their use. That answer comes from this lab.'

When CEXC collects evidence, the unit begins the meticulous task of breaking down the samples and making them ready for examination.

'We take photos of every item we bring in and are able to determine how fast the process will be to get evidence,' said Isham. 'We're looking for finger prints, cell phone parts, swabbing for DNA; at the end of the day we want to know that we have gathered as much data as possible.'

Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Devon Bryan explained how within a post-blast scenario, there is a cycle of events.

'At this point, we are exploiting the device at the lab,' said Bryan. 'We will triage all items before laboratory processing for safety. We use devices as needed for chemical analysis.'

According to Bryan, this is the time that these researchers will look closely into residues and identify their use.

'Let's say there is a powder - what is it?,' asked Bryan. 'Is it explosive, an illegal drug, ordinary table salt or nothing harmful?'

The evidence left behind in a post-blast IED scenario can be very telling, said Bryan. The data and evidence are collected and shared with other agencies.

'In our lab we could collect finger prints, DNA, fibers and tool marks and send them to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for analysis, which is a great resource for us,' Bryan said.

After the identifying and data collection portion of IED analysis is complete, the process advances to fusion operations. The data is passed along to several intelligence organizations such as the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Security Agency. The agencies are then able to add or expand to their own objectives based off the collected data.

'Fusion Operations are crucial to identifying bomb makers and their networks,' said Bryan. 'Once we do our biometric enrollment and finger print analysis left on the device from a suspect and forward them electronically to other agencies, the external analysis may return with a report that says the suspect may be linked to other criminal activities.'

The cycle of analysis and collection of IED data is continuous and for every event there is a new data point.

'You're linking it all together; you're talking about thousands of pieces of information,' said Isham. 'The more data points that you have then the more accurate you will be. We've been doing this for over a decade. We have tens of thousands of data points and we are prepared.'

Though wars and contingency operations may decrease, terrorist operations actively continue and it is the job of the CEXC to ensure that U.S. forces remain ready and are kept alive.

'We have labs, not just in Afghanistan, but throughout the world where we need them,' said Isham.

Improving Navy-Marine Corps amphibious core competencies along with coalition, NATO, Allied and partner nations is a necessary investment in the current and future readiness of our forces. BA14 will take place Oct. 29 to Nov. 10 afloat and ashore along the eastern seaboard.

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