A Federal Bureau of Investigations publication recently recognized two Airmen from the 155th Explosive Ordnance Disposal shop, along with bomb squads from Nebraska and Iowa, for their work with a research project at an FBI Critical Incidence Response Group event in 2018.
The publication expressed its sincerest appreciation for the bomb technicians who conducted a series of research tests in an attempt to determine the effectiveness of various disruption tools against pressure cooker improvised explosive devices.
“This push was specifically because of the Boston Bombing,” said Senior Airman Isaac Maytum, 155th EOD technician. “This was right after all that came out and they were trying to figure out how, if these start coming out more, that we can find remedies and deal with them on the spot. This was a push by the FBI to come up with a steadfast solution to deal with them.”
On April 15, 2013, near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, young terrorists detonated two pressure cooker IEDs in backpacks, killing three and injuring 264 others. Sixteen of those injured lost limbs from ball-bearings, nails and other shrapnel used in the IEDs.
Staff Sgt. Micah Buscher, 155th EOD technician, said Omaha FBI hosted the joint bomb technician event May 23, 2018, in Lincoln, Nebraska, as a scientific experiment to see the results of various charges used and different repetitions of the process.
At the event, certified bomb technicians handled explosives and used disrupters needed for the testing.
“We took part in the characterization of this specific disruption of a specific improvised explosive device,” Buscher said. “It’s just characterized in a scientific experiment like that so that it can be shared with everybody and can say this is a technique that works.”
He said the goal of the experiment was to disrupt the device without detonation. The process opens it remotely and safely by still scattering the contents, but prevents the bomb from detonating.
Pressure cooker devices are specifically tricky, Maytum said, because of how they seal, making them difficult to open, unless you know how it works.
“They’re hardened containers, like an ammo can or 55-gallon drum,” Maytum said. “You can’t just cut a hole in it and get into it. You’ve got to find a more energetic way to get inside, while still not setting it off.”
Because of their unique design features, pressure cookers have been commonly used for IEDs throughout the world.
This is why learning how to neutralize an active pressure cooker IED is an invaluable lesson for bomb technicians, and why, according to Maytum, the learning experiences during the experiments is an essential tool in the tool bag for any bomb technician that may encounter one of these devices.
“We’ve done the leg work so people don’t die when they find one of them,” Maytum said. “At the end of the day, that’s what our job is. We don’t look for accolades in it. It’s a big group effort.”
Maytum and Buscher are both grateful for the hands-on experiences they’ve had, and said the FBI is good about creating collaborative opportunities like this to work together.
“We have a good working relationship with the agencies around us, Nebraska State Patrol Bomb Squad or Lincoln Fire and Rescue Bomb Squad,” Maytum said. “Having those relationships matter for when that call comes. Being able to draw on all your resources and them being able to draw on us is key.”
The Airmen agreed the research event was a great example of how collaborative training can lead to better working relationships and stronger solutions for the future.