About Featured Expert: A veteran of the U.S. Army, Chris Butler has twenty one years of combined military and government services industry. Mr. Butler specializes in dynamic, kinetic training solutions for DOD, DHS and LE EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Operators. He currently free-lances as an EOD and IED advisor, training instructor and equipment designer.
The following is a condensed version of the full audio interview, which can be found in the above link at Science of Skill’s SoundCloud station.
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Marcus Roth: This is Marcus Roth with The Science of Skill Self Protection Podcast. I’m here with Chris Butler, a IED detection and prevention expert here all the way from Texas. Chris, IEDs in the states is something that doesn’t come up all that often, and when it does it’s always very unfortunate. What exactly led you down the career path of being an IED detection and prevention expert here in the United States?
Chris Butler: After I got out of the Army, that was right at at the beginning of the Iraq war, there was a full swing of looking for expertise in dealing with IEDs. There was actually a task force started by the Pentagon due to the fact that there was so many congressmen asking for investigations into why so many troops overseas were dying from these IED attacks. Basically the G3 of the Army at the time, General Cody, started up the IED task force. That was myself and several other individuals that were sent over to Iraq to address the problem of how do we deal with IEDs and how do we keep our troops from getting killed by these IEDs. That’s what led me over to the civilian sector of working with IEDs.
MR: What does your job look like now? Are you consulting or are you actually ever in some sort of bomb protective suit? Are you actually on the field ever or is that young man’s work?
CB: Surprisingly a lot of guys stay active in the field and they’re putting on that 80 pound bomb suit and their taking that longest walk. I’ve known guys well into their 50s who are doing that kind of work. A lot of times now, I’m an instructor. Can I still throw a bomb suit on and still do it? Yes, because I’ve taught it so much. I know exactly what I’m supposed to do. It’s more of a theoretical exercise. You got to stay on top of it. You got to stay smart. You got to read your intelligence reports.
MR: How might the average unlucky listener come across an IED and what should they do in that scenario?
CB: Their best bet, is if they see something that seems strange and out of place or even if they’re in a strange place they’ve never been before and they somebody sticking something in the garbage can, messing around with it and then walking away very quickly. Basically, if they see something, they should say something but they should also be immediately moving out of the area. You need to get as far away from this is as you can as quickly as you can.
MR: Now let’s imagine a fictional scenario where an IED has just been detonated. What is the first thing, the very first thing a listener should do, and what should they do after that?
CB: It’s pretty close to what they would do if they found one pre-detonation. Let’s just say we have an IED, maybe a large vehicle bomb kind of like the Oklahoma City bombing that took place back in 1996. That bomb was so big, several thousand pounds of ammonium nitrate that it destroyed about a third of that building. There was damage to buildings in a 16 block radius. Say if you’re out in the open and an IED goes off, you obviously immediately need to get out of that area. Stay away from structures that could easily break. Stay away from large windows. Five percent of the deaths in the Oklahoma City bombing were from glass fragmentation. It blew out windows and those windows just cut people to shreds.
MR: Let’s talk about what an IED might look like now. I understand they could be very different given the nature that they are improvised, but there must be some kind of similarities that they average listener may want to be looking out for to detect one…
CB: Basically, unless this person steals explosives from some mining or quarry company, this person is probably going to have to make explosives. That’s what we call “HME”, home made explosives. You’re not going to see the big projectile. You’re not going to see the round shape of a mine. You’re probably going to have baggies. Baggies might be in some kind of shrapnel container like a pressure cooker. All that could be hidden in a backpack.
A lot of times in Afghanistan and Iraq, the local populous would see somebody walking down the road with an IED, but they wouldn’t say anything to us. Obviously because they didn’t like us. They didn’t want us there. That person could move freely. In the United States however, if you saw somebody walking around with a bundle of dynamite, you know somebody’s going to say something. We have a lot more police. The guy is probably going to get snatched up before he can get to his target destination. Therefore, he knows he’s going to have to camouflage the IED What’s easiest to carry it around in? You want to carry around a big pipe for a pipe bomb? No. Probably a back pack or a briefcase. Heaven forbid, we’re getting suicide bombers. Bulky clothing can be hiding explosive vests or belts under bulky clothing. I would say most instances, and this is just my opinion once again, don’t take this as gospel, that an IED most usually is probably going to be in a backpack or a briefcase or some kind of carrying bag to disguise it.
MR: Can we talk about what an IED explosion may look like? How far can the deadly shrapnel travel and what about the shock wave? The nature of IEDs that they’re probably different each time, but in general, what are hard but general facts our listeners may want to know.
CB: It depends on the type of explosives that person uses, and it also depends on the amount. If it’s a small five pounds of explosive pounds of explosive charge, you might see a quick flash and then a lot of smoke. If it’s a larger vehicle bomb, a lot more explosives, it’s up off the ground, then you’re going to see a large fireball and you’re going to see a lot of smoke afterwards.
MR: Being behind anything, does that help? Let’s say you jump behind a car and you’re a good distance away. Is that going to dampen the shock wave?
CB: It’ll help work it around you. It’ll help deflect it. It might keep you safe from the shrapnel. Depends on how much explosives, what kind of explosives. Unfortunately that blast pressure, the PSI, it’s not going to really change it that much. It’s more dangerous to be in a building and have a bomb go off because, to put in layman’s terms, that blast pressure gets focused and reverberates. So you’re taking several more hits than you would if you’re in open field and just one comes washing over you. That’s something to be aware of. Another good reason to get out of the building.
MR: Where can a listener contact you or find more information about the subject if they want to learn from you?
They can get in touch through the company I’m working with, it is cgpgmg.com