The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives runs a National Center for Explosives Training and Research near Fredericksburg, Va., described by the Washington Post as “unique school where law enforcement officials learn to think like bombers.”
The school is visited each year by about 1,000 law enforcement officials from the United States and foreign countries. Six months ago it welcomed State Department agents responsible for diplomatic safety in far-flung countries. The school is set on Fort A.P. Hill, a series of Army weapons ranges where soldiers can engage in live-fire exercises.
Not all the courses focus on ferreting out criminals. “Historically, the most dangerous job a bomb tech does is disposal, as opposed to dealing with an actual device,” said Steven Beggs, 39, a 15-year ATFE veteran who oversees the school. Illegal fireworks, moldering dynamite bought to clear stumps, detonators from vehicle air bags are some of the seemingly mundane but dangerous items students learn to deal with (or, in the language of the explosives world, “render safe”).