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Homeland Security

Having a blast!


Story ID 03-044
March 03, 2003

Air Force Space Command News Service
By Airman 1st Class Bryan Franks
30th Space Wing Public Affairs

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - The FBI came here to finish their class with a blast and that's exactly what they got. About 500 pounds of ammonium nitrate ripped a 2.5-ton truck to nothing more than a frame on a remote corner of the base Feb. 11 as a final exam for an FBI class in explosive scene investigations.

The course is designed to train local, state and federal agencies in conducting the investigation of a bombing, said Special Agent Robert Heckman, FBI forensic sciences instructor. It gives the students a chance to apply what they've learned in the classroom.

The 30th Civil Engineer Squadron's Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight did the honors of detonating the bomb on the EOD range but the rest was up to the students.

Vandenberg has been supporting this class since 1999, but it is not the only base that participates, Heckman said. The FBI also holds classes at Travis, Nellis, Edwards and Eglin Air Force Bases.

The course has the added benefit of establishing a network of people on the West Coast trained to investigate bombings that do occur, Heckman said.

Those people would be available to augment investigations and assist other federal agencies in a bombing situation, he added.

Between 25 and 38 students participate in each class. The students investigate the blast scene to identify the type of explosives used and the type of vehicle that carried them, said Sgt. George Gomez, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Arson and Explosives Detail.

After searching the scene, the class uses the information they gather, along with information provided by instructors, to identify a suspect and build a case against him, Gomez said.

A Los Angeles deputy district attorney visited the class Feb. 14 to listen to the class's evidence against the suspect they identified and tell them if the evidence was enough to support a conviction.

All of the students taking the course are from different bomb squads around the country. This is an advanced course for people who've had other bomb training in the past, Heckman said.

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