AMU Provides Explosive Ordnance Instruction at Ravens Challenge
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By David E. Hubler
Contributor, In Military
Dr. Chris Reynolds, Dean of Academic Outreach and Program Development at American Military University, and two colleagues recently returned from the 2018 Ravens Challenge in Bangkok, Hua Hin, Thailand.
It was the second year that the university has participated in the world’s largest gathering of military, police, academic and private security agencies. About two years ago, AMU master’s student Al Johnson, who heads the Ravens Challenge, suggested a partnership between the university and the annual military gathering.
This year’s event drew some 800 military officials and civilian law enforcement personnel from Britain, Greece, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Scotland, Singapore and the United States.
The two-week global event included classroom seminars during the first week for Continuing Education Units (CEUs), workshops and a technology expo. The second week was devoted to field training scenarios and major interagency exercises.
“We also worked very closely with the Thai Defense Technology Institute, the main investigative branch in the country,” Reynolds said.
Instructors Taught Three Courses from Explosive Ordnance Certificate Program
Reynolds, Dr. John Dolan, Faculty Director in the School of Security and Global Studies, and AMU instructor Michael Bussell led three condensed courses from AMU’s Explosive Ordnance certificate program — Chemistry of Explosives, Electronics and Explosives and Weapons of Mass Destruction. .
Classroom participants were instructed in the latest techniques in Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), Counter Improvised Explosive Devices (CIED), Counter Terrorism Operations and other antiterrorism tactics.
“We had 30 participants in our three classes over the three days,” Reynolds said. Participants who took all three courses had the opportunity to earn up to 50 CEUs from AMU.
“We took an eight-week online class and turned it into an eight-hour brick-and-mortar classroom course,” explained Bussell, a former Army ordnance disposal technician. “We took the basic objectives and I taught one of those [classes] each day — Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the first week,” he said.
“We had members of the Thai military and national police explosive ordnance people in the class. We also had a member of the Greek Air Force EOD and a number of members of the Singapore military EOD techs as well,” Bussell added.
Bussell characterized his students as “sponges for knowledge” because they listened intently and took many pictures of the presentation slides. Bussell credits his interpreter with making the classroom instruction so successful because he previously had worked in the Thai National Police Forensic Department and was familiar with the technical terms.
“You’re only as good as your interpreter,” Bussell said. So he used the same interpreter for all three days of classes.
According to Bussell, the students were most interested in the chemistry of explosives class, most of which was devoted to homemade explosives. For his slide presentation, Bussell used materials that are commonly found in Thailand. “I think that one particular course was the one that a majority of the students asked the most questions in,” he noted.
“All the explosive ordnance activities were all cutting-edge,” Dolan noted, “especially for an area of the world that does not have the best tools to do this kind of difficult job.”
Ravens Challenge Students Could Potentially Transfer to AMU
The students earned program certificates as well as the CEUs. “The gateway is now open for them to transfer into AMU,” Reynolds said. They can use the CEU credits and certificates to transfer to AMU’s undergraduate Explosives Ordnance Disposal, Weapons of Mass Destruction, or Terrorism Studies programs.
Dolan said the CEU courses were a valuable educational opportunity for both the students and the university. “You’re looking at an area that has 75 percent of the world’s population, and somebody’s going to [have to] provide education to them,” he commented.
Why AMU Participates in Ravens Challenge
The Ravens Challenge supports the university’s interests and “is part of its mission statement to support military and first responder types regardless of where they are,” Dolan added. Despite the great amount of material that was condensed to fit into the three-day CEU courses, the students were enthusiastic and excited. “When they got their certificates, you could see their excitement,” Dolan remarked.
“AMU is providing a continuity of instructors who can begin to develop long-term relationships, both personally and professionally, with the Thais,” Reynolds explained. “It’s all part of AMU’s assistance “to our colleagues in other countries in counterterrorism, counter IED and in counterintelligence training and education,” he added.
The three AMU instructors also met with personnel from the Thai Counterterrorism Operations Center, the FEMA of Thailand that handles natural disasters. “The deputy director for that program was intensely interested in AMU’s Emergency Disaster Management program,” Reynolds noted.
The Ravens Challenge ran from 2004 to 2007 at Fort Lewis, Washington. After organizers spent several years developing a new, more inclusive event, the first global Ravens Challenge took place in 2013 as a one-week event in Hua Hin, Thailand, hosted by the Royal Thai Police. Since then, the annual Ravens Challenge has remained in Thailand and represents the global EOD community.
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