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Yuma Marines learn to detect homemade explosives

By Lance Cpl. Aaron Diamant | | May 13, 2010

With the vehicle-borne explosives found in New York City’s Times Square dominating headlines recently, explosive ordnance disposal Marines here took part in a timely course on homemade explosives May 3 to Friday.

Taught by a Joint Asymmetric Threat Awareness and Counter Improvised Explosive Device team, the 40-hour course covers everything from bomb-making materials to the various types of explosives that can be made from them.

EOD teams from the station and Marine Wing Support Squadron 371, as well as MWSS-373 from Miramar, Calif., took part in the course.

The course is taught by experts from JATAC’s Joint IED Defeat Organization, who travel throughout the U.S. to teach the course.

EOD Marines can easily be tasked to respond to a post-blast or team up with local law enforcement to respond to a bomb threat. It’s happening all over the world, said Justin Anderson, JATAC course instructor.

“This is very similar to what we saw recently in New York City, and also with Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City,” said Anderson. “A vehicle can easily be turned into a vehicle-borne IED.”

To emphasize the common nature of most of the bomb-making materials, the instructors used a pickup truck filled with what appeared to be groceries and household supplies, such as coffee, sugar, rubbing alcohol and other common household items.

However, everything in the vehicle could be used to make explosives, said Master Gunnery Sgt. Lee Sherwood, station EOD staff noncommissioned officer in charge.

“It could look like they were returning from the store,” said Sherwood.

The materials used are not only common in Iraq and Afghanistan, but on the home front as well.

The training provides Marines and other students with thorough knowledge of homemade explosives, their precursors, techniques and hazards in a safe training environment.

“We don’t want them to run into something they haven’t seen before in a safe training environment for the first time in the field,” said Anderson.

Another benefit of the training is that it comes to the Marines, not the other way around, saving units money in travel costs, said Anderson.

While most of the methods for making explosives are available online, most of the ‘recipes’ don’t mention the industrial safety hazards associated with making the explosive compounds, said Chuck Schaaf, course instructor.

Sherwood is no stranger to seeing homemade explosives, as he had experiences with them in Afghanistan.

“IEDs have been what’s killing our fellow service members in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Sherwood. “If we can understand what they are making, how they are making it and where they are getting their supplies, we can move to stop them from being able to make them.”

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