PRINCE SULTAN AIR BASE, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia –
Airmen from the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing trained alongside service members from the Royal Saudi Air Force in a post-blast training exercise, Feb. 10, 2022.
Replicating the scenario of an improvised explosive device detonation, specialized units from the 378th AEW and the RSAF came together to execute their post-blast investigative responses.
“The real benefit here is understanding the different approaches each service takes when tackling the same problem,” said Staff Sgt. Jesse Seal, 378th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal training section lead. “By training processes together we reduce and potentially eliminate any obstacles that would present themselves due to differences in communication or expectations.”
U.S. Air Force units designed to respond to real world explosive incidents led the training by incorporating their RSAF counterparts in their processes.
Using the expertise of the EOD team and the Office of Special Investigation Expeditionary Detachment 2419, the teams went through the steps of investigating and collecting evidence after the scene of an explosion.
“The post blast investigative process is invaluable because it allows us to reverse engineer a device to further our threat assessment in the region,” Seal said. “In other words, it helps us determine how future IEDs we encounter in the area might function so that they can be safely defeated.”
The two day training course consisted of a day of academics in the classroom and a second day of hands-on field training.
Using real explosives to mimic the effects of a live ordnance, the exercise provided the most realistic training possible.
“EOD’s primary role in the exercise was to provide the opportunity to train on post blast investigative processes without having to simulate the explosive effects of a blast,” Seal said. “We were able to create a safe and controlled environment to train for a situation that can often be chaotic and time sensitive.”
After the live explosion, EOD, OSI and RSAF swooped in to scour the area for any remnants of potential evidence.
Side-by-side the two services combed through the blast scene to flag, collect and document any evidence that may aid in an investigation.
“These are the folks we’d work with if something were to really happen,” said Special Agent Gerald McLaughlin, OSI EDET 2419 superintendent.”We have people well trained in this and we now know how to capitalize on each other's efforts, whether that’s pulling fingerprints off of tape from the explosion or how we lay out our grid system to what evidence we collect.”
Although the training aspect of the exercise is critically important, the strengthening of partnerships and relationships is a piece of the exercise that may have the most impact on the service members.
“It’s important to understand each other more as people and less of ‘you’re in the Saudi military and I’m in the U.S. military’.” McLaughlin said. “We now have this partnership event and now we know each other better. We shook hands, we did this training together, we both placed flags in the ground and built that partnership that’s critical to sustaining operations here at PSAB for the long term future.”