The following is a true story. If you feel an eerie prickle on the back of your neck at the mention of X-rays, low-battery lights, the Wilkins Auditorium, or generalized human frailty, then it has come close enough to home to ring the doorbell. To call this a cautionary tale would be to further blur the line between what used to be fiction and what now is a fact of life, and death. This is another one for the “You Are Here” file. The Editors
Top: The author dressed in full tactical gear. If the medic goes down, the third team member to complete the mission is this guy. Bottom: The author in a state-of-the-art Allen Vanguard bomb suit, being fitted by Allen Vanguard's Chris Cowan. Mr. Cowan, a former bomb squad member, was blown up in 1991 by an I.E.D. He knows his product.
A near-hysterical security guard from the Xcel Center called the Saint Paul Police Department with the report of three suspicious items, one of which was ticking, found outside the Roy Wilkins Auditorium with a note saying that all three were bombs that would explode if demands were not met.
The Xcel and all associated buildings were evacuated, and traffic was rerouted around the complex. The Bomb Squad was called in to investigate.
The first order of business was to send a robot down the long hallway from the East entrance near Washington Street to the doors of the Wilkins Auditorium. Upon approach, the camera on the robot revealed the three items: a brief case, a large cardboard shipping box, and a 60-gallon drum, all connected by electrical wire. The robot, controlled by the bomb technician, set up the digital X-ray unit and recorded radiographs of each package. The X-rays revealed that each was indeed an Improvised Explosive Device (I.E.D.) which likely contained high explosive material.
At this point, the DVD from the robot’s recorder was reviewed, and the X-ray images were analyzed by the bomb technicians. First finding: The ticking came from a dummy mechanical alarm clock. They surmised that the clock was used to frighten the security guard, because two of the bombs could be deactivated by cutting the connecting wires.
A cell phone was discovered in the briefcase, connected to a detonating device. The decision was made to send the robot down-range to deactivate the cell phone detonator and remove the bombs for disposal.
The Appearance of Mr. Murphy**
The robot was outfitted with a wire cutter and a wheeled cart for transporting the briefcase and the cardboard box. But as the robot approached the briefcase, the “low battery” light appeared on its control panel, and the mechanical marvel stopped. The bomb technician suited up in the bomb suit, as did the bomb medic. The technician headed down-range with a two-wheel cart and a new battery for the robot.
Once the technician had installed the new battery, completely focused on the operation, he began to circle around the robot, whereupon he tripped over the two-wheel cart. And then — he signaled that he was unable to stand! That was when the bomb medic headed immediately down-range with the recovery sled (a very large version of a mini-boggan) to retrieve the technician even as a second technician was already donning a bomb suit to finish the mission. The medic reached the downed technician and determined that the leg was, in fact, fractured. The medic splinted the leg using duct tape and three pieces of lath. He placed the technician on the sled and hooked up a 300 foot long retrieval line to the sled. A signal to the team back up-range, and the injured technician was pulled to the command post. Heading back up-range, the bomb medic reached the second technician and relayed information about the “set up” and other features he saw when he was on the “X”.
The bomb medic student completing the first task: walk 300 feet, lie down, stand up, walk 300 feet back. It was all smiles, as this was fairly easy. Smiles disappeared during later exercises.
Bomb Squad 1, Terrorists 0
The robot, now functional, was used to disarm the detonating device and cut the wires between each of the I.E.D.s. It handled the box and briefcase, moving them to the transport vehicle. The deactivated barrel was moved to the transport vehicle by the second technician, where it was loaded for disposal. The mission was successful: No bomb detonation, no lives lost, no damage to any structures. The injured technician’s leg healed.
Bomb Medic Role
The bomb medic played an important role in the example above. He supplied medical help to the downed technician. With his specialized training, he was able to keep the scene at the “X” safe, retrieve the technician in a minimum amount of time, and provide intelligence to the second technician. Without the medic, the second technician would have had to retrieve the first technician and waste valuable time in “defusing” the bombs. Without medical training, further injury to the first technician was more likely, with more man-minutes spent at the “X”. Time is a very, very scarce luxury in a situation such as this. Having a technician perform medical duty is a waste of that person’s valuable time and expertise. Having a medic who is trained in technician-retrieval protocols frees the technicians to do what they need to do.
Having a medic who knows the basics of I.E.D.s , secondary devices, blast injuries, and Bomb Squad protocols could help save lives and time. Without this knowledge, a medic would be of little use. Untrained, he or she could jeopardize the mission, the members of the squad, and cause detonations and injuries.
Author’s note: I wish to thank Jerry Johnson and Wally Kruger of the Minneapolis Police Department for their support; Dan Murphy of the Bloomington Bomb Squad
and Director of the I.A.B.T.I. Third District for making me feel welcome as a new member of the I.A.B.T.I.; Jeff Foust and the rest of the BadKarma associates for their help and encouragement in completing the Bomb Medic Training Course; Chris Cowan of Allen Vanguard for his support in providing a state-of-the-art bomb suit for our use; and my fellow students, who showed exceptional patience with me.
Top: The bomb medic checks a victim. Note the orange rescue sled close by. Bottom: We challenged a sales rep to see if a robot could retrieve a downed technician. The robot did it, but progress was too slow. Note: The tall attachment on the front is a camera, and the two silver tubes are disrupters.
BadKarma is the name of the company that provides training for bomb medics. Jeff Foust is its founder and C.E.O. As a bomb technician, and as a medic, Jeff recognized the need for a medic to train with the bomb squad. As well, he realized that someone else may have had the same idea he did. Checking with the world’s two most active Bomb Squad Groups, those of the United Kingdom and Israel, Jeff discovered that no such course existed. That was when he and members of his group in Fort Wayne developed a curriculum and taught the inaugural course this past October in Downers Grove, Illinois, as part of the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators (I.A.B.T.I.) Third District Conference. From this course, the curriculum will be refined and improved. The bomb medic will prove to be a very valuable member of the Bomb Squad.
**Inventor of the famous law.
*Dr. Nolting is Chair of the Disaster Preparedness Subcommittee of the Minnesota Dental Association’s Environment and Safety Committee. He is a general dentist in private practice in Byron, Minnesota. E-mail is Nolting@aol.com.
The IABTI Experience:
Prequel to Sequel
My training as a bomb medic began with the requirement to become a member of the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators (IABTI) - actually an associate member, as I am not a technician. I sent in my dues for the year and a completed application, which included notification that a thorough background check would be made. I was accepted, and my conference materials were sent.
Upon my arrival in Downers Grove, I was greeted by a number of members and made to feel very welcome. Class began promptly at 8:00 a.m. each morning. We became familiar with the bomb suit, bomb medic gear, protocols, bomb types, detonators, and a myriad of gadgets to deal with bombs. We studied blast medicine, blast injuries, and the latter’s difference from other combat injuries.
Training was very difficult. Wearing a 75-pound bomb suit and dragging a downed victim or a bomb technician wearing a bomb suit was a real challenge. Performance was timed, and your ability to adjust to changes in conditions (i.e., the invocation of Murphy’s Law) was also noted. Scenarios changed. Everyone wore the suit each day; everyone also had his or her turn as a different team member.
Even in training there was a rush of adrenaline when a technician went down. In a real life situation where secondary explosive devices could be present, and/or bad guys could be shooting as you headed down-range, the effect would be an adrenaline dump. Helpful for energy at first, its let-down would be a real problem if it occurred before the mission was completed.
Terrain, obstacles, and ground surfaces presented problems. Dragging a mini-boggan with 250 pounds of dead weight was very difficult on grass, better on concrete, even better on gravel, and would be a snap on snow and ice. Next time I will make sure I am in better condition. I will also lobby for a class in the late fall or winter. Even in the 58 degree breezy, dry weather we had, the temperature inside the bomb suit was very high. Losing a pint to a quart of water in your 15 minute time inside the suit was not unexpected. The new suits have cooling systems. They work very well if your battery is fully charged. Ours was not. (Doom on Rickie!) I consumed three times as much water that week as any normal summer week. I also became very superstitious in a very short time... Well, maybe I was superstitious anyway, but I may be more so now. (I do believe that it is a good thing that the K is backwards in ad arma, and my ad arma pin will ALWAYS be on my right lapel.)
The Conference Exhibit Hall was terrific! I especially enjoyed the robots and the disrupters. A disrupter is a hopped-up shotgun that will fire an assortment of projectiles. One of the most dramatic is a 14-inch column of water fired at doors of cars, trucks, or houses to gain entry. The result is a door that is absolutely destroyed, allowing access to the inside. The disrupter can also fire 12-gauge rounds such as bird shot, slugs, flares, flash-bangs, and grenades. The digital X-ray equipment was very familiar, especially the Scan-X unit, which looked nearly identical to the one in my office. Protective armor was also interesting to see and wear. I was amazed how light it was. Imagine having body armor that would stop a high-power rifle bullet, and you live!
The hospitality room was open after classes, where supper was served by a sponsoring company each evening. Networking was great! I was fortunate to meet many very interesting people. A soft spoken gentleman around my age (I’ll call him Bill) and I exchanged introductions the first night and began to talk about pheasant hunting and fishing. As we were about the same age, and older than most of the rest of the crowd, we tended to have our dinner together each night. On the third night I asked him what group he was with. “ATF.” [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms]
I laughed. “We’re training at that nine-story ATF building 2 blocks away. I think we’ve had that building blow up in nearly all of our scenarios.”
“Yeah, that’s my building.”
“I’m the Director.” There was a nice pause. “What do you do?”
“Wow. I’m a dentist.
Bill is a guy who could get lost in a crowd of two.
I was privileged to meet and work with medics from Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. I met most of the security people from the Mall of America and all of their dogs. The dogs can sniff out drugs and explosives like you would not believe! I had conversations with people from the FBI, TSA, Homeland Security, and bomb squad members from Minneapolis , Bloomington, St. Paul, Cook County, Dupage County, Fort Wayne, and Chicago. We owe these people a great deal of thanks for doing a job that is difficult in the extreme, and appreciation comes mostly from their own peers. I have a great deal of respect for all of these men and women who protect and serve us. Thank you!