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301st blasts through world's largest EOD exercise

Tech. Sgt. Russell Szczepaniec, 301st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight technician, holds up a computer for his Army teammates and an exercise controller to view scenario information during the Raven's Challenge X April 20 at Fort Wolters, Texas. The exercise gives military EOD technicians, public safety bomb squads, and other government agencies the opportunity to merge their resources and perform counter-IED operations together in a realistic training environment. The exercise occurs in four different locations across the country making it the largest in the world of its kind. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa Harvey)

Tech. Sgt. Russell Szczepaniec, 301st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight technician, holds up a computer for his Army teammates and an exercise controller to view scenario information during the Raven's Challenge X April 20 at Fort Wolters, Texas. The exercise gives military EOD technicians, public safety bomb squads, and other government agencies the opportunity to merge their resources and perform counter-IED operations together in a realistic training environment. The exercise occurs in four different locations across the country making it the largest in the world of its kind. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa Harvey)

An Air Force Reserve and two Army explosive ordnance disposal technicians talk to a hostage during Raven’s Challenge X exercise April 20 at Fort Wolters, Texas. The exercise gives military EOD technicians, public safety bomb squads, and other government agencies the opportunity to merge their resources and perform counter-IED operations together in a realistic training environment. The exercise occurs in four locations across the country, which makes it the largest in the world of its kind. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa Harvey)

An Air Force Reserve and two Army explosive ordnance disposal technicians talk to a hostage during Raven’s Challenge X exercise April 20 at Fort Wolters, Texas. The exercise gives military EOD technicians, public safety bomb squads, and other government agencies the opportunity to merge their resources and perform counter-IED operations together in a realistic training environment. The exercise occurs in four locations across the country, which makes it the largest in the world of its kind. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa Harvey)

Before the scenario begins, an explosive ordnance disposal team comprised of Army and Air Force Reserve prepare during the Raven's Challenge X exercise April 20 at Fort Wolters, Texas. The exercise gives military EOD technicians, public safety bomb squads, and other government agencies the opportunity to merge their resources and perform counter-IED operations together in a realistic training environment. The exercise occurs in four different locations across the country making it the largest in the world of its kind. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa Harvey)

Before the scenario begins, an explosive ordnance disposal team comprised of Army and Air Force Reserve prepare during the Raven's Challenge X exercise April 20 at Fort Wolters, Texas. The exercise gives military EOD technicians, public safety bomb squads, and other government agencies the opportunity to merge their resources and perform counter-IED operations together in a realistic training environment. The exercise occurs in four different locations across the country making it the largest in the world of its kind. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa Harvey)

NAVAL AIR STATION FORT WORTH JOINT RESERVE BASE, Texas -- Explosive ordnance disposal technicians with the 301st Fighter Wing here took part in the first of a series of EOD exercises billed as the largest in the world.

Raven’s Challenge X kicked off April 18-22 at Fort Wolters, Texas, one of four locations for this year’s exercise.

With more than 1,000 participants, it is now the world's largest exercise of its kind, according to organizers.

Sponsored by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives National Center for Explosives Training and Research, the annual exercises brings military EOD technicians and public safety bomb squads together to perform counter-improvised explosive device operations in a realistic environment.

Tech. Sgt. Joseph Lagrone, 301st EOD technician and exercise controller, explained the importance of this kind of training.

“For these guys to get this kind of training is invaluable,” he said. “To work with public safety bomb squad guys and see the different tactics they bring to the table…it’s invaluable.”

EOD technicians were run through a gauntlet of training scenarios including vehicle-borne, cabin and passenger bus IED situations, among others.

The newest Airman to the unit, Senior Airman Ryan Wilson, an EOD apprentice, participated in the exercise with a team comprised of 301st EOD and Army technicians.

“It’s a lot different training than we usually get, because we have more resources convening in one place and time,” Wilson said. “It [the exercise] puts out new crisis scenarios that we haven’t run across yet.”

When a real-world situation occurs, the 301st EOD, which area of responsibility covers 62,000 square miles in Texas, may need to collaborate with other agencies, such as a local bomb squad or the Federal Bureau of Investigation, depending on the situation.
“They see out of country, we see in country,” Ricky Hendrix from the Plano Police Department Bomb Squad said.” Communications have changed over the years where it is just an internet site away from seeing people build things here the military has seen out of country, so it [collaboration] is critical for us.”

Lilla Pistorio, a management and program analyst for the FBI critical incident response group counter-IED section, shared what it’s like to work a crises in a joint environment.

When an incident happens, FBI phones ring off the hook from bomb technicians wondering what they are looking for, Pistorio said. By focusing on the components, tactics, techniques, and procedures the enemy is employing, the bureau is striking a really good balance of sharing needed information.

With government agencies, local bomb squads, and military personnel from multiple branches training and collaborating together, Raven’s Challenge X provides an avenue to increase the level of preparedness of all involved.