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June 10, 2002

Operation America training program readies nation’s bomb squads for terrorist threats

Bomb disablement tool
Bomb-disablement expert Chris Cherry of Sandia National Laboratories demonstrates use of a bomb disablement tool, the Percussion-Actuated Non-electric Disrupter, to bomb technicians who participated in the Operation America workshop near San Diego, Calif.
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bomb-disablement experts at Sandia National Laboratories are joining forces with the Virginia State Police Bomb Squad to share the latest in bomb-disablement tools and approaches with regional bomb squads in a five-day, hands-on training conference in Portsmouth, Va., June 11-16.

The workshop is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Defense, and Sandia. It is hosted by the Virginia State Police with support from the Southeastern Public Service Authority (SPSA).

Operation America, as the event is called, focuses on the science of explosives and the advanced technologies and methodologies necessary to protect the public from the increasingly sophisticated and dangerous explosive devices being fielded by today’s terrorists and criminals.

Mock briefcase bomb
A bomb tech in protective gear aims a PAN Disrupter at a mock briefcase bomb.
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Sandia hosted its first bomb-squad training conference in Albuquerque, N.M., in 1994 to put emerging bomb-disablement technologies into the arsenals of the world's busiest bomb squads, primarily those of local and state governments, the U.S. military, federal law enforcement agencies, and select foreign government antiterrorism organizations.

Since then regional Operation America conferences have been held in Riverside, Calif., San Diego, Calif., Astoria, Ore., and Orlando, Fla. to provide the same widely sought training to the nation's first responders from surrounding state and local governments.

Participating in Operation America - Portsmouth are approximately 125 specialists representing state and local bomb squads from Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and other states; federal law enforcement agencies including the FBI and U.S. Secret Service; and all branches of the U.S. armed forces.

Bomb disablement tools
Bomb disablement tools being demonstrated and used during Operation America range from advanced bomb disrupters to bomb squad robots.
Download 300dpi JPEG image, ‘bombbot.jpg’, 1.3MB (Media are welcome to download/publish this image with related news stories.)
“This is the honors program for bomb techs,” says Sandia's Chris Cherry. “We are proud to work with some of the country's best bomb squads to discuss and practice the art and science of disabling the increasingly complex terrorist bombs of today while protecting the lives of the public and our first responders.”

The workshop includes classroom instruction and range demonstrations of advanced disablement strategies, vehicle bombs, and other issues associated with current terrorist-type threats. Small teams of bomb tech “players” also will practice defeating mock bombs. Following the practice scenarios, players and instructors will discuss and evaluate the teams' tactical approaches.

“These aren't your run-of-the-mill pipe bombs,” says Cherry. “The bomb techs who come here are concerned about more complex devices. Our goal is to give them the training they'll need to deal with the kinds of terrorist-type devices we think they'll encounter in the next 10 to 20 years.”

Since 1992, Cherry and his Sandia team have developed some of the world's most technically advanced and widely used “render-safe” technologies, along with reconnaissance technologies to help categorize complex, terrorist-type bombs and assess their threats remotely. (For details, please see http://www.sandia.gov/media/NewsRel/NR2002/bombtool.htm.)

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin Company, for the United States Department of Energy under contract DE-AC04-94AL85000. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major research and development responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Sandia media contact: John German, jdgerma@sandia.gov, 505-844-5199

Virginia State Police media contact: Karen Scales, kscales@vsp.state.va.us, (804) 674-4633

SPSA media contact: Felicia Blow, flow@spsa.com, (757) 420-4700

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